De Young Museum features black artists

Whats Going On by Barkley L. Hendricks on display at de Young (Briana Battle / Golden Gate Xpress)

‘What’s Going On’ by Barkley L. Hendricks on display at de Young (Briana Battle / Golden Gate Xpress)

Smit Parekh

An art exhibit about African-American history from the rise of the Third World Liberation Front, is in it’s last two weeks of standing at the de Young museum. 

The Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983, traveled from its origin in Tate Modern, London to Golden Gate Park to spread the voice of Black artists from the two decades, especially Black Bay Area artists. 

The exhibit is divided into different sections, displaying pieces in a chronological order. Walking through the photographs and prints from the ‘60s, which are created using different materials including fiberboard and gelatin, the room opens to show larger paintings and sculptures.

 “The Door (Admissions Office)” by David Hammons in the center of a room, is an old-school office door, with a body impression in black ink on its glass panel, which represented institutional racism and inequality.

Lajon Janvier, an Africana Studies major at SF State, attended the exhibition twice since it’s opening in November, 2019. She says there were different aspects of observing the art while they were all projecting the same message. 

Janvier said Phillip Lindsay Mason’s 1939 acrylic on canvas painting, The Manchild in the Promised Land, which shows an African-American boy with a Target logo on his t-shirt, “touched her heart” among many others. According to Janvier, the painting represents targeting of a young African-American child for racial profiling by the police and inequality in the education system.

Along with 128 days of celebrating African-American art through this exhibit, the museum also welcomed six Bay Area based African-American poets for a reading series called The Fire Thieves, on the last day of Black History Month.

SF State alumna and current San Francisco Poet Laureate, Kim Schuck introduced and hosted the event. Poets presenting at the reading included youth from high schools, college professors, authors and activists, all representing different backgrounds within African-American culture from the Bay Area. 

“The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program invited me here and I have heard great things about the exhibition at de Young so I was happy to have an opportunity to perform here,” said Samuel Getachew, a senior from Oakland Technical High School.

The Soul of the Nation exhibit was described as “phenomenal” by poet and professor of education at St. Mary’s College of California, Raina León. León was not aware of a few events from during the Black Power movements presented in the exhibition before her attendance, thus she admired the educational part of it. 

The exhibit ends on Mar. 15, and the museum continues to host events, allowing African-American poets and musicians to perform their thoughts . Their dates and timings can be found on the museum’s website.