Freeman Vines to be Featured in UK Group Exhibition at Turner Contemporary

inNewson January 9, 2020

TURNER CONTEMPORARY TO SHOWCASE ARTISTS AND MAKERS FROM AMERICA’S DEEP SOUTH IN GROUND-BREAKING EXHIBITION WE WILL WALK

Turner Contemporary will showcase the work of artists and makers from the Deep South in We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South (7 February 2020 – 3 May 2020). The exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states produced from the mid-20th century to the present, many of which will be coming to Europe for the first time. In an era of worldwide protest on the streets, We Will Walk addresses issues of race, class and resistance through a diverse range of works developed outside of the mainstream. The exhibition was conceived by the artist Hannah Collins, who spent three years researching and developing the show, having encountered the work of these artists and makers in the American South. As lead curator, she is joined by curator Paul Goodwin, Professor of Contemporary Art and Urbanism at University of the Arts London, whose interest is in fugitive art practices and place. The artists represented 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 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 Country. Also included are classic works by celebrated artists William Edmondson, Lonnie Holley and Thornton Dial. The exhibition will see a series of quilts from the isolated hamlet of Gee’s Bend in Alabama go on display in the UK for the first time. Many of the inhabitants of Gee’s Bend (known today as Boykin) 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. These artists turned impossible circumstances into innovative artworks. We Will Walk brings a new context to the works through music, documentation and the work of contemporary African American artists and thinkers including Kerry James Marshall and Angela Davis, who both migrated from Alabama. It will also feature Collins’ documentation of artists’ environments in situ. 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 material documenting Civil Rights events – both iconic and
everyday.

Victoria Pomery OBE, Director of Turner Contemporary said: “These extraordinary artworks have been hugely influential on the language of subsequent artists. Bringing this exhibition to Margate highlights the global importance of creativity and its power to provoke change; fundamentally altering the course of an individual’s life, challenging social inequality and inspiring vital debate.”

The selected artists and makers include: Mary Lee Bendolph; Hawkins Bolden; Beverley Buchanan; Sheila Pree Bright; 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; 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.

More about the Turner Contemporary:

Turner Contemporary in Margate is one of the most distinctive galleries in the UK; its impact stretches beyond culture-led regeneration and the showcasing of world-class exhibitions, to pioneering change by making the arts more vital and connected to daily life. Turner Contemporary is a charity, receiving public funding from Kent County Council and Arts Council England. Since opening in 2011, Turner Contemporary has generated over £70 million for the local economy, led to the opening of over 150 new businesses, safeguarded 155 jobs and attracted over 3.4 million visits.

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