published Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Not to be forgotten: Hunter Museum exhibit portrays the legacy of slavery

The hand-made book, “Freedom: A Fable, A Curious
Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times with Illustrations,” right, by Kara Elizabeth Walker.
The hand-made book, “Freedom: A Fable, A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times with Illustrations,” right, by Kara Elizabeth Walker.
  • photo
    Photo engraving and silkscreen on paper, “Counting,” by Lorna Simpson.

If You Go

* What: "Slavery: A Legacy Continued."

* Where: Hunter Museum of American Art, 10 Bluff View.

* Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Friday-Saturday; noon- 5 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday.

* Admission: $9.95 adults, $4.95 ages 3-17, free under 3 and members; first Sundays of month are always free.

* Information: www.huntermuseum.org.

Times may have changed, but history doesn't.

So while gaining freedom from plantation masters is not something American blacks have to worry about today, slavery is nevertheless not an issue to be forgotten.

Just shy of February, which is Black History Month, the Hunter Museum of American Art is offering the exhibit "Slavery: A Legacy Continued," which includes nine pieces from the gallery's permanent collection. The museum offered a similar exhibit when, following a renovation, it reopened in 2005 with works by artists of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

The current exhibit, though, views the subject through the lens of more contemporary artists.

Nandini Makrandi, chief curator at the museum, says the exhibit sheds light on an unfinished matter.

"While we have seen great strides in our nation in terms of racial issues," she says in a news release, "there are still many challenges ahead of us, and each of the artists represented in this exhibition offers a unique perspective on this rather complex topic."

It also comes just ahead of the Feb. 14 opening of a larger exhibit, "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond," which is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Indeed, one artist in that exhibit -- Jacob Lawrence -- also will be represented in the upcoming exhibit on slavery.

"It's definitely intentional," says Hannah Legg, director of communications for the museum. "These [permanent collection works] are not always out of view but have not necessarily been paired together with [slavery] in mind."

The exhibit space, on the second floor of the museum's original mansion, is an introspective "place for people to think about the issue and what's happened since slavery," she says.

Legg says the exhibit includes paintings, screenprints, photography, an etching and a book of paper cuts. While the Kara Walker book of paper cuts displays images from slavery days, many of the works represent contemporary subjects such as a photography/typography collage and the Jacob Lawrence screenprint of blacks and whites, old and young, mingling at the inauguration of Deep South President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

"Most [of the subject matter] is contemporary," Legg says. "The book is reflecting back on how folks were treated" in slavery days, reflecting on "what they have struggled with."

Among the other pieces, she says, are a photo-lithograph, "Not Manet's Type," by Carrie Mae Weems, which portrays a black woman looking at herself in a mirror and representing the fact that black women were not routinely selected as models by classic artists. Also in the exhibit is the "unique" "Singing Head, a bronze bust by Elizabeth Catlett which is "cool" and "is the first thing you see," Legg says.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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