Taken in 1968, the photo would become one of the defining symbols of Black Power – a cultural and political movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that emphasized black pride and self-determination.
Radcliffe Bailey’s “Theorist’s Throne” is a reference to an iconic poster depicting Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. credit: Jack Scheinmann Gallery
The exhibition, which opens January 15, explores the legacy of the Black Panthers and how they have influenced artists today, featuring memorabilia of the Black Panther alongside works by contemporary Black artists.
“There is a lot to learn from [Black] “Billy, one of dozens of artists whose work has been featured in the gallery, is one of the dozens of artists whose work has been featured in the gallery,” Panther Party told CNN. We come from different places and different directions, but… when we put our business side by side, something else comes out of it that is unique.”
Oil painting “Michael BBB (Black Panther Party”) Barclay L. Hendrix. credit: Jack Scheinmann Gallery
For curator and gallery founder Jack Scheinmann, this “fragile tender” is a reflection of progress – the sheer force needed to achieve it and the care required to maintain its results. By comparing the historical with the contemporary, he asks: What has changed since the 1960s and how far do we have to go?
“The murder of George Floyd captured the world’s attention and really made people confront the racism that was and still is prevalent in America,” he wrote in an email to CNN. “While the outpouring of support from white Americans has been encouraging, the headlines have faded and the anger has subsided. Progress is not guaranteed over time. Hopefully, having this exhibition now is a reminder of that.”
One of the show’s goals, Scheinman said, is to present a more comprehensive picture of the Black Panthers, an organization that has long been misunderstood as an anti-white militant group. In fact, the organization called for self-defense in the face of attacks, rallied to the side of its white allies and instituted social programs for the community.
Photograph by photographer John Simmons depicting a sign that reads “Free Huey.” credit: Jack Scheinmann Gallery
“This show scratches the surface of everything The Black Panthers have done and done since its inception, but the show’s big goal is for viewers to have a seed of thought and a critical awareness that this was an incredibly multifaceted organization that went so well,” said Scheinman.
“This Thin, Fragile Thing” is a revisit of a show the gallery gave in 2005. The previous exhibition, “The Whole World Is Rotten,” also considered Black Panthers in a contemporary context. While this year’s exhibition includes some of the same work as the 2005 exhibition, it pushes the conversation forward with pieces that speak better about the present moment.
Nick Cave’s “Arm Peace” honors black people who have died from gun violence. credit: Jack Scheinmann Gallery
Nick how in 2018 An ‘arm of peace’ protrudes from the wall, with flowers resembling a funeral wreath draped from it, in memory of blacks killed by gun violence.
Ceramic carvings of Akinsanya Kambon, the former black panther, influenced by African religious traditions. credit: Jack Scheinmann Gallery
Elsewhere in the gallery, Akinsania Cambon, an artist and former Black Panther, evokes the spirit of the organization through his ceramic sculptures. Drawing on African spirituality and religious traditions, his work is an expression of pride and acknowledgment of history—a mission instilled in him during his tenure as a cultural lieutenant for the Sacramento chapter of the Black Panther Party.
“One of the things that the Black Panther Party has done is it has allowed me to understand that if you’re an artist or if you belong to a history of oppression and do art, your art has to speak for these things,” Cambon told CNN. “Your art must challenge the system that puts you in your shoes.”
“This Fragile and Tender Thing” is on display at the Jack Scheinmann Gallery: The School in Kinderhook, New York, January 15 through April 30.
Top photo: Malcolm X in Harlem in 1963, taken by photographer Gordon Parks. Malcolm X’s ideas laid the foundation for what would become the Black Power movement.