San Francisco's de Young Museum features internationally acclaimed Black art exhibit

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- From Nov. 9, 2019 to March 15, 2020 the de Young museum is featuring the internationally acclaimed exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983.

"Soul of a Nation has probably been the most acclaimed exhibition over the past few years and a lot of people describe it as revelatory," Timothy Anglin Burgard, senior curator of American Art at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco said. "They're artists and artwork they've never seen before."

There are 60 artists and more than 150 pieces inside the de Young Museum in every possible medium. The work documents a time where race, identity and politics, much like today, were at the forefront of Black life in America.

"A lot of these artists worked for decades without any recognition from critics, collectors, curators, museums and they couldn't sell their work," Anglin Burgard said.

ABC7 News reporter Jobina Fortson walked through the exhibit as Anglin Burgard explained David Hammons' piece, "The Door."

"It says 'Admissions Office,' so you think of admissions to college or university, your path forward to achieve the American dream, but of course that door is closed to a lot of people," Anglin Burgard said. "You can walk around and be on either side of the door. That really poses a serious question, which side of the door are you on?"

As visitors walked around the exhibit, some began to notice rainbow signs indicating the Bay Area connection to the art. For example, "The Liberation of Aunt Jemima" was created with objects found at the Alameda flea market.

"Betye Saar, the artist, used to go every weekend to the Alameda flea market to try to find cast-off items of American society," Anglin Burgard said. "She stands on a bed of cotton representing the past of enslavement, but now, in addition, the broom that represents labor, she is carrying a gun and a pistol. She is loaded and going to fight back."

Barkley Hendricks' now universally recognized masterpiece of protest art, "What's Going On," is a central focus among the exhibit.

"Barkley Hendricks went to art school and when he graduated, he went on a tour of all the great museums in Europe. He kept looking for images of Africans or African Americans and if he saw them at all, they were always in some secondary position," Anglin Burgard said.

The exhibit ends with a look at incredible abstract art by artists who didn't necessarily want to be defined by their race, but by the beauty they could create.

Anglin Burgard said, "A lot of the artists in the exhibition chose to work abstract. They respected and acknowledged the issues of the day, politically and socially, culturally and they supported those issues. But at the same time, the greatest freedom we could possibly have is the freedom to do what we want."

The de Young museum is offering free admission to the entire museum, including free entry to Soul of a Nation, for all visitors on two more Saturdays throughout the run of the exhibition. For more information, click here.
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