I read a Commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle by Art Critic Charles Desmarais in which he scrutinizes the tenure of the soon to depart Chair of the Trustees Dede Wilsey. In his commentary an upcoming exhibit is discussed as part of Fine Arts Museum managment’s effort to be current with contemporary art, “Soul of a Nation.”
This November, the de Young Museum welcomes the internationally acclaimed exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963–1983, organized by the Tate Modern in London. This powerful and provocative presentation focuses on art made in the pivotal decades between 1963 and 1983, when issues of race and identity dominated and defined both public and private discourse. Rarely has an historical exhibition proved to be so timely—and to provoke so much meaningful discussion among its numerous viewers.
The works in Soul of a Nation were forged in a crucible of institutionalized racism and codified prejudice that had pervaded the entire American nation for centuries. Galvanized to take action, and inspired by the Civil Rights struggle for equality and justice, African American artists determined to use art and culture as catalysts for self-definition, self-empowerment, and self-determination.
The artists represented in Soul of a Nation worked in numerous cities across the United States and in multiple media. The de Young’s presentation of Soul of a Nation will include an expanded group of works by artists who worked in the Bay Area. Their paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, collages, assemblages, and custom clothing contributed to the Black Power movement by promoting personal and cultural pride, collective solidarity and empowerment, political and social activism, and pan-African nationalism. Long marginalized, these revelatory works and the enduring relevance of their messages are now understood to be central to the complex histories of American culture.