The ThinkLA DIG Committee gathered at The Broad museum in Downtown Los Angeles to see the important exhibits at Soul of a Nation: Art in theAge of Black Power 1963-1983.
Soul of a Nation shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists made over two decades, beginning in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. Soul of a Nation explores how social justice movements, as well as stylistic evolutions in visual art (such as Minimalism and abstraction), were powerfully expressed in the work of artists including Romare Bearden, Barkley Hendricks, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, and William T. Williams. Los Angeles-based artists appear throughout Soul of a Nation, and more deeply in three specific galleries, foregrounding the significant role of Los Angeles in the art and history of the civil rights movement and the subsequent activist era, and the critical influence and sustained originality of the city’s artists, many of whom have lacked wider recognition.
Featuring the work of more than 60 influential artists and including vibrant paintings, powerful sculptures, street photography, murals, and more, this landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
Three of our committee members offered their perspectives and reactions to the exhibit. Please see photos in the gallery below.
Vice President, Client Partnerships Group
DIG Committee Co-Chair
The Broad “Soul of a Nation” took me on a journey of Black America’s (lowercase intentional) frustration and anger of the oppression endured at that time, expressed through various art forms. I was mostly impressed by those who chose to use creatively to heal their souls and document their experience in a personal way – Bearden, Hendricks and Puryear to name a few. New artists emerged, new expressions of art were formed and healing begun. I was touched by the experience.
Regional Marketing Manager, West Region
My favorite piece was a wood sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett titled “Black Unity”. The gesture, the raising of a closed fist, is a widely known symbol of the black power movement. The sculpture showed this famous gesture and on the reverse side showed two faces, in the style of African masks. Two very different images. To me, the fist represented power and strength, while the faces (or people behind the fist) felt confident, in control and calm.
Another great moment was finding a QR code to a ‘Soul of a Nation Playlist’. This was a great compliment to the exhibit that allowed me to also experience some artist’s music who also paved the way.
The entire exhibit was insightful, and really celebrates the age of Black Power. I think it also told a story that is still relevant today.
Well, I certainly left creatively inspired! It was great to get out of the office, commune with new friends, and get some culture!
I learned more than I ever imagined through art - and in particular the use of symbols and color as statements to express oppression. As a creative and one who deals in symbols for branding often, it peaks my interest and I want to learn more.
We even left with a blank panther pin and some sweet Basquiat cards!
DIG Committee Co-Chair
A theme that stood out to me was this tension black artists felt, around what it means to be a black artist, and what “black art” should or shouldn’t be. Some believed the black esthetic must be inherently separate from mainstream art, that it must be for activism and politics. Others disregarded any attempt at being defined or contained. In the 1970’s artist Benny Andrews wrote about white mainstream art critics for “not being able to see a black figure done by a black artist without automatically assuming that the work is propagandistic, or politicizing,” and “being unable to look at an all-black art exhibition with the same impartiality that he brings to an all-white exhibition.”
This is still very prevalent in our world today beyond art. We want to put everything in a box. Many people feel this tension in their own personal and professional life. There’s a duality of feeling a responsibility to represent my culture(s) and yet assert my own individual perspectives without it being received as something that belongs in a box because of the color of my skin.
This was such a great experience to go and learn among other advertising pros of all sorts of backgrounds. I find moments like this are a fun and informative way to open the doors, have intimate conversations to enhance our collective cultural competency and to welcome safe spaces to explore and learn about other cultures and perspectives in the future.
We’ll definitely be doing more outings like these, so stay tuned!
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