WE WANTED A REVOLUTION

“It is the first exhibition to highlight the voices and experiences of women of colour – distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement” 

- Brooklyn Museum

As women across the US proudly proclaim their politics more loudly than ever, a new exhibition looking back the radical work of the black women artists of second wave feminism is preparing to open at New York’s Brooklyn Museum.

The show is billed as part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a blockbuster programme which plays out at the Brooklyn Museum through 2017 into 2018 with ten exhibitions (among the artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Marilyn Minter). We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 reconsiders the black female artists and activists who harnessed the art world and radical political movements to ignite social change during feminism’s so-called “second wave”.

“It is the first exhibition to highlight the voices and experiences of women of colour – distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement – in order to reorient conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period,” the museum says.

Dindga McCannon (American, born 1947). Revolutionary Sister, 1971. Mixed media construction on wood.

In response to race and gender discrimination in the art world and beyond, women of colour artists formed collectives and organisations to support one another’s work and fight back against these dual oppressions. Many of these radical groups are highlighted in the exhibition including the Where We At collective, founded in early 1971 by Kay Brown, Dindga McCannon, and Faith Ringgold. Out of an initial gathering of women at McCannon’s Brooklyn home came one of the first exhibitions of professional black women artists, Where We At – Black Women Artists, 1971 at Acts of Art Gallery in the West Village. McCannon was motivated to make her vibrant and bold Revolutionary Sister due to the lack of representations of black women warriors and her thoughts on the Statue of Liberty. As she wrote, “[The State of Liberty] represented freedom for so many but what about us?”

Emma Amos (American, born 1938). Preparing for a Face Lift, 1981. Etching and crayon.

Emma Amos was involved with multiple groups working at the intersection of art and activism throughout her career that are featured in the exhibition. She was the youngest member – and only woman – of the New York collective Spiral which was active in the mid 1960s and assembled as a support and networking group for black artists interested in social change.

Faith Ringgold (American, born 1930). For the W omen–s House, 1971. Oil on canvas.

From organising protests against race and gender discrimination at the Whitney Museum to burning the American flag as part of the Judson Three, Faith Ringgold appears throughout the exhibition as one of the main figures leading art world activism in the 1960s–80s.

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