On April 9, the Mississippi Museum of Art will open A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, which explores the profound impact of the Great Migration on the social and cultural life of the United States from a historical perspective and staff.
Co-organized with the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), the exhibition features newly commissioned works through media by 12 acclaimed black artists, including Mark Bradford, Akea Brionne, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates, Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Carrie Mae Weems. Through the artists’ distinct and dynamic installations, A Movement in Every Direction again reveals the spectrum of contexts that shaped the Great Migration and explores the ways in which it continues to reverberate today in both intimate and communal experiences. .
The exhibition will be open at MMA until September 11, 2022, then travel to the BMA, where it will be on view from October 30, 2022 until January 29, 2023. A move in all directions will be accompanied by a two-volume publication that includes essays commissioned by Kiese Laymon, Jessica Lynne, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts and Dr Willie J. Wright.
The Great Migration saw over six million African Americans leave the South for destinations across the United States in the early 20th century and into the 1970s. This incredible movement of people transformed almost every aspect of black life, both in rural towns and urban metropolises, and spurred an already flourishing black culture. A Movement in Every Direction provides a platform for featured artists to explore, reflect and capture their own relationship to this singular historical event, both personally and artistically. Brought together by co-curators Ryan N. Dennis (elle), Chief Curator of MMA and Artistic Director of the Museum’s Center for Art and Public Exchange, and Jessica Bell Brown (elle), BMA Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, The Works offer an insightful rumination on the complexity of the Great Migration as a tale that is still unfolding. The exhibition presents an incredible wealth of vision and artistic endeavor, with installations with a very varied conceptual and technical approach and which encompass painting, sculpture, drawing, video, sound and immersive installation. . MMA and BMA also create exposure-related digital assets for their websites for virtual engagements.
“We asked this group of talented artists to join us on this journey over a year ago, during a pandemic, to investigate their connection to the South. The process has been enlightening, and we are very grateful for their enthusiasm and commitment to this project during this difficult time. As each project has grown over the past year, informed by research, exploration and dialogue, it has become clear that our show will mainly highlight reflections on the family. She will pose migration as a consequence both historical and political, but also as a choice to reclaim one’s free will. The works examine individual and family histories of perseverance, self-determination and self-determination. ‘self-reliance through a variety of expressions,’ said Dennis and Brown.
Many of the works in the exhibition engage in new and ongoing research by the artists, examining this history through the prism of contemporary life and drawing trenchant parallels through time. Torkwase Dyson’s Way Over There Inside Me (2022), which features a modular sculpture installation as well as an online archive, examines the relationships between plantation economies, black spatial histories and our worsening environmental crisis. The links between migration, economies and landscape are also explored in Allison Janae Hamilton’s three-channel film installation, A House Called Florida (2022). It offers a mythical and haunting exploration of the longstanding symbiotic links between black life and the southern environment, and a speculation on the intertwined destinies of life and land in the aftermath of climate degradation. The same themes are found in Jamea Richmond-Edwards’ multimedia installation, reflecting on how natural disasters catalyzed black migration. In other cases, the artists’ research focuses on culture-making, such as the video work by Steffani Jemison, which features Alabama-based actress Lakia Black and others voicing a range real and imaginary identities through speech and music.
Community development, strength and resilience also emerged in the research and creation of individual works, and as an important common thread within the exhibition. Mark Bradford’s Blackdom (2022), an installation of 60 individually painted and oxidized panels, is inspired and takes its name from a black settlement in New Mexico that the artist discovered during research for the exhibit, and which was billed as a safe and self-reliant black community. In A Song for Travelers (2022), Robert Pruitt examines his hometown of Houston, particularly the Third and Fourth Quarters, which have served as a place of protection and resources for new migrants through a large-scale drawing that reflects archived and contemporary representations of the evolution of its community. Zoë Charlton’s large-scale installation, Permanent Station Change (2022), features a monumental wall drawing and life-size pop-up sculpture that blurs the lines between the real and the imaginary and between the domestic and the foreign. . Charlton explores how, for some families like his, military service became essential for the social advancement of blacks and, at the same time, fueled global imperialist interventions in Vietnam and the Philippines.
Personal and family experiences are at the heart of the entire exhibition, and for several artists this commitment has led to the creation of particularly intimate works. In his immersive video installation, titled LEAVE! GO NOW !! (2022), Carrie Mae Weems explores the journey of her grandfather Frank Weems, a prominent farmer and labor activist who was presumed dead after being attacked by a white mob in 1936, but who survived and traveled to Chicago . A series of digital prints reflecting Frank Weems’ journey north titled The North Star (2022) will accompany the installation. Akea Brionne’s The Path Laid by the Phelps Sisters (2022) explores ancestral resilience and strength within black mothering family structures. The installation focuses on the life of the artist’s great-grandmother and four great-aunts through portraits and materials that contain family significance and capture the importance of the work of previous generations in improving the lives and opportunities of their descendants. In a series of large-scale photographs and archival family photographs, Larry W. Cook explores intergenerational accounts of fatherhood and forgiveness as he traces his paternal line across Georgia, South Carolina and Washington. , DC.
The interaction between the staff and the common continues with Theaster Gates’ The Double Wide (2022), a large-scale sculptural installation that resembles a double-width trailer belonging to his uncle that had operated as a candy store on day. and a juke joint per night. The installation features a soundtrack as well as a material culture that speaks to Gates’ childhood, family and friends. Untitled (Slow Drag, Barely Moving, Imperceptible) by Leslie Hewitt (2022) positions a group of abstract sculptures inspired by his grandmother’s family home in Macon, Georgia. The works refer to the once flourishing businesses that his family were forced to close by eminent domain, while grappling with broader notions of destabilization and migration in relation to time and space.
“Through this incredible array of works, we hope viewers experience A Movement in Every Direction as a meditation on ancestry, place and possibility,” added Dennis and Brown.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a two-volume publication. The first volume will feature a critical reader highlighting essential scientific work on aspects of the Great Migration, from the formation of American cities to its impact on black spirituality, music, art, food and culture. The second volume will offer a capsule presentation of the exhibition’s content, including curatorial essays, artist entries and newly commissioned essays by senior academics Kiese Laymon, Jessica Lynne, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts and Dr Willie J Wright.