Freeman Vines’ Work Featured in Turner Contemporary Guided Video Tour

inNewson May 14, 2020


Turner Contemporary has created a virtual tour of its ground-breaking exhibition We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South. It is available to view for free from midday on Friday 1 May via the gallery’s website and YouTube channel while the gallery is currently closed to the public. The exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK to reveal the little-known art shaped by the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. The exhibition was opened on 6 February 2020 by Bonnie Greer OBE. Filming of the exhibition was organised quickly in collaboration with Modus Films before the gallery subsequently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic on 18 March 2020.

We Will Walk brings together sculptures, paintings, quilts and installations by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and the Deep South. The exhibition addresses issues of race, class and resistance through a diverse range of works developed outside of the mainstream.

The virtual tour is led by lead exhibition curator Hannah Collins with co-curator Paul Goodwin. It features soundbites from civil rights photographer Doris Derby and writer and critic Greg Tate, which were recorded at the Symposium: Art Roots and the Abstract Truth that took place on 5 March 2020 at Turner Contemporary. There is also music from musicians supported by Music Maker Relief Foundation.

The exhibition was conceived and developed by artist/photographer/film maker Hannah Collins, who made extensive journeys over three years through urban and rural Alabama, interviewing makers and taking photographs of their work and the circumstances in which they were produced. As lead curator, she is joined by co-curator Paul Goodwin, Professor of Contemporary Art and Urbanism at University of the Arts London, whose interest is in fugitive art practices.

The artists in the exhibition lived through the Civil Rights struggle and its aftermath, often in conditions of poverty. Some works are in direct dialogue with this era of protest, while others evidence the longstanding impact of segregation and racial terror. This art is characterised by the remaking and reuse of materials that happened through necessity, custom, culture and innovation as well as a vital connection to place and nature.

Much of the work in We Will Walk draws on the tradition of the ‘Yard Show’, ephemeral outdoor environments made from salvaged materials. This includes the root sculptures of Bessie Harvey and Emmer Sewell’s iconic sculpture created outside her home in Marion County. Also included are works by celebrated artists William Edmondson, Lonnie Holley and Thornton Dial.

A remarkable series of quilts from the isolated hamlet of Gee’s Bend in Alabama feature in the show. Many of the inhabitants of Gee’s Bend are descendants of people enslaved on the Pettway plantation. These world-famous quilts have a distinctive style and are often made from recycling old clothing such as blue jeans.

The exhibition also features a series of guitars by Freeman Vines, including one made from the wood of an old hanging tree. Vines’ work with the wood became more explicit in its imagery of pain and death as he discovered the story of Oliver Moore, the man who was lynched from the tree.

We Will Walk brings a new context to the works through music, documentation and the work of contemporary African American artists. The exhibition includes a specially created soundtrack by African American musicologist Professor Calvin Forbes, some of which is included in the virtual tour. It features Collins’ documentation photographs of artists’ environments in situ.

A significant group of archive prints on loan from the High Museum are featured, as well as artworks from major public and private collections, principally in the US. The exhibition also includes a selection of works by contemporary practitioners who were born or spent their early lives in the South, such as Kerry James Marshall and Angela Davis who both migrated from Alabama. Their work examines the immense impact the events and imagery of the Civil Rights era continue to exert.

Artists and makers include:

Mary Lee Bendolph; Hawkins Bolden; Beverley Buchanan; Sheila Pree Bright; Angela Davis; Thornton Dial; William Edmondson; Ralph Griffin; Bessie Harvey; Lonnie Holley; Ronald Lockett; Joe Minter; Nellie Mae Rowe; Emmer Sewell; Mary T Smith; James Son Ford Thomas; Bill Traylor; Freeman Vines; Kara Walker; Jack Whitten; Annie Mae Young; Dinah Young and Purvis Young.

Civil Rights Photographers include:

Bob Adelman; Morton Broffman; Doris Derby; Declan Haun; Matt Herron; James E Hinton; Danny Lyon; Charles Moore; Gordon Parks; Charmian Reading; Steve Schapiro and Ernest Withers. The exhibition is supported with funding from Art Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation.

Further curatorial information on the exhibition is available via Hannah Collins’ website www.hannahcollins.net/wewillwalk

This film was created by Modus Films https://modusfilm.com/about

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