“Middle Passage,” “Middle Passage II,” “Middle Passages #5,” “Great America,” “Absolut Power,” “Afro-American Express” : Curatorial Statement

Historical art can be a difficult way in which to accurately comprehend the past. Through the lens of a single artist, it can blur the facts; it can obfuscate; or it can gloss over ugly facts. But it can also reflect cultural consciousness of how events transpire⎯ the brutality of Guernica left the realities of Franco’s Spain unvarnished, and is a symbol of the human cost of war to this day. It is in that spirit that I examined a number of paintings that focus on the Middle Passage: Hank Willis Thomas’s “Absolut Power,” and “Afro-American Express”; Kara Walker’s “Middle Passages #5”; Keith Morrison’s “Middle Passage” and “Middle Passage II”; and Kerry James’s Marshall “Great America.” These works span a variety of techniques and media, they illustrate the Middle Passage, and they relate the relationship of the Middle Passage to the modern.

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