Walk— Art and Resistance in the American South
We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American SouthTurner Contemporary, Margate, Opening 01 February 2020
We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South is an ambitious exhibition that celebrates the creativity of artists and makers from the Deep South. Co-curated by artist Hannah Collins, who initiated the project, and curator Paul Goodwin with Turner Contemporary, it brings together sculptures, assemblages, paintings and quilts by over twenty African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states produced from the mid-20th century to the present. The selected artists lived through the Civil Rights struggle and its aftermath, often in conditions of rural poverty. Despite limited resources, they created innovative and powerful artworks with strong connections to nature and place that frequently reference the Civil Rights struggle alongside wider issues of history, race, resistance and education. They are shown together in the first exhibition of its kind in the UK.
Artist Hannah Collins came across the work of these artists whilst working in the American South. She was deeply moved and began documenting their art. Once the idea of an exhibition emerged Paul Goodwin, whose interest is in fugitive practices and place, came on board to co-curate this exhibition which will also feature Hannah Collins’ documentation of artists’ environments in situ.
We Will Walk has been several years’ in the planning and will succeed several ground-breaking exhibitions (Outliers, History Refused to Die and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power) that have examined art that was developed outside of the mainstream. The exhibition reveals a hidden history shaped by the momentous impact of racism and resistance during the Civil Rights period in the 1950's/60's that can be traced back to African American rural, spiritual and cultural traditions. Unlike other exhibitions to have focused on this territory to date, the exhibition will provide a context for the artworks via the inclusion of archive prints documenting Civil Rights events – both iconic and everyday. Lastly it will consider the legacy of this period and these works via the inclusion of a number of contemporary artists born in the South, whose work references Civil Rights events and their Southern roots.
Encompassing sculptures and assemblages; quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend; intimate and exact objects and performative traditions, this art is characterised by the remaking and reuse of materials through necessity, custom, culture and innovation as well as a vital connection to place and nature. We Will Walk brings a new context to the works through music, documentation and the work of contemporary African American artists and thinkers like Kerry James Marshall and Angela Davis, who both migrated from Alabama.