On Wednesday, August 28th, the HGM class of 2021 visited The Broad Museum, a renowned art museum in the heart of Downtown LA owned by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. We were invited to see their temporary exhibit, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (1963~1983), and their permanent collection of post-war contemporary art.
In the Soul of a Nation exhibit, we learned about the oppression and racial bias that the Black Power movement hoped to eradicate, and how that same defiance against prejudice was characterized into art — many black artists portrayed a strong, assertive tone with the bold imagery of fists and the use of bright reds and yellows.
A few of the memorable pieces that had a profound impact on the junior class were: Icon for My Man Superman by Barkley Hendricks, Revolutionary (Angela Davis) by Wadsworth Jarrell, Injustice Case by David Hammons, and Fred Hampton's Door II by Dana Chandler, all of which can be viewed under this article.
Icon for My Man Superman depicts the artist himself as Superman, asserting that he is painting himself into history rather than waiting for someone else to "confer the honor" upon him. The bold blues and reds paired with the powerful stance of Hendricks paints a strong and assertive image, portraying to the viewer that he will no longer tolerate the prejudice surrounding the black community.
Revolutionary (Angela Davis) is inspired by a picture of Angela Davis that was released when charges were pressed against her for murdering a prison guard in the early 1970s. The piece radiates a confident spirit, filled with a myriad of bold, uppercase words from her speeches: "RESIST" and "REVOLUTION" written in bright reds, oranges, and purples, which all merge to form Davis clothed in Jae Jarrell's Revolutionary Suit.
Injustice Case is a poignant, disturbing piece of a shadowy image gagged and bound in a chair layered over the American flag, depicting the trauma and abuse that Bobby Seale was subjected to during his trial for conspiracy to riot in 1968. Seale, part of the “Chicago Eight” and co-founder of the Black Panther Party, had been gagged during his trial after an order from the judge, stripping him of his dignity and rendering him unable to defend himself against the accusations.
To produce this ghostly image, Hammons experienced the inhumane trauma himself by covering his body with oil and pressing it against the canvas to produce an imprint. The impression is framed with the American flag, highlighting the juxtaposition between the justice and integrity that the flag represents in contrast to the harsh reality of the brutality that exists against its citizens.
Fred Hampton's Door II, produced in 1975, is a recreation of Chandler’s original 1970 piece, Fred Hampton’s Door, which was stolen during the Expo ‘74 in Spokane, Washington. Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panthers, was brutally assassinated by the police in his sleep in 1969. When the police officers were tried in court, Hampton's door was used as evidence that he had shot first; however, further investigation revealed that the bullet holes were all caused by the officers’ guns. Chandler's piece used a framed portion of that door with the real bullet holes, while the recreation of that piece, Fred Hampton’s Door II, was made using an entire real door riddled with holes and painted with the Pan-African colors to highlight the brutality of the Chicago police, and pay tribute to Hampton.
After we finished exploring the Soul of a Nation exhibit, we ventured upstairs to the Broad's permanent collection of post-WW2 art, filled with explosions of color and abstract structures of all shapes and sizes.
Some of my personal favorite modern pieces were Hustle'n'Punch By Kaikai And Kiki by Takashi Murakami and Under the Table by Robert Therrien, which you can view under this article as well.
Hustle'n'Punch By Kaikai And Kiki is a whimsical frenzy of color and character that seems to be exploding out of the canvas. Murakami's use of comical faces and bright hues exudes a flamboyant, childlike spirit, and seems to exist simply for the joy of viewing.
Under the Table is a surreal, tactile sculpture of a dining table seemingly used by giants and similar fantastical figures. Its whimsical, larger-than-life magnitude provides a unique perspective that humans often cannot experience; the viewer is subjected to a bug's-eye-view of the everyday world, encouraged to look up and feel the massive presence that a mere dining table emanates.
We were also able to see some recently acquired works on display, such as Deep Blue by Mark Bradford, which represents the violence that took place during the Watts Rebellion in 1965, and African American Flag by David Hammons, which merges the American flag design with the colors of the Pan-African Flag (also known as the Black Liberation Flag) to symbolize the newly-defined identity of being black and American.
The visit to the Broad was an inspiring and educational experience for all the HGM juniors. We would like to thank Mr. Bradbury and Ms. Underwood for planning this trip for us!
Experience it yourself!* Tickets available here
*The Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibit will no longer be available at the Broad after September 1, 2019
Icon for My Man Superman
Revolutionary (Angela Davis)
Fred Hampton's Door II
Hustle'n'Punch By Kaikai And Kiki
Under the Table