American People” examines intersectionality in America – 71Bait

Every artist tells a story, but not every artist can tell one as comprehensively as Faith Ringgold.

Faith Ringgold: American People, on view through November 27 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, takes viewers through Ringgold’s artistic journey. The concept of the exhibition is simple, the content is anything but. Ringgold’s collection is a glimpse into her creative vision, which reinterprets the plight of a black woman during the civil rights movement.

American People is a collection of paintings, begun in 1963, depicting various black realities in the United States. American People Series #2: For Members Only is rock hard; the dark piece torments the viewer with creepy white figures staring at them out of nowhere. The painting is inspired by a traumatic memory of Ringgold during her childhood, but goes beyond simplicity and instead serves as a haunting reminder of the white state of emergency.

The collection contains many paintings with similar white ghostly figures. Early Works #15: They Speak No Evil illuminates these forms uniformly; They have similar facial expressions, outfits and hairstyles. These images are certainly not easy on the eyes, but neither are they intended to be – including multiple paintings in this style serves as a reminder of the constant white surveillance and resulting discomfort of being in one’s body. Her almost hypnotic nature makes it almost impossible for the viewer to look away.

The first paintings in the collection are Ringgold’s early works, taking the viewer in chronological order from the first piece to the last. Early Works #25: Self-Portrait is a vibrant geometric-style painting that illuminates Ringgold’s femininity and power as an artist and storyteller. Ringgold appears with her upper body raised, her arms slightly crossed at a 90 degree angle, surrounded by bold colors and shapes.

Black Light Series #12: Party Time from the Black Light Series is one of a kind. The series was inspired by Ringgold’s desire to represent Black Power through a unique approach to color theory. Viewing Ringgold’s exhibition, it is clear that she constantly challenged herself by employing different concepts and styles. “Party Time” features a man and a woman; The woman is dominated by bright orange and yellow, while the man floats in deep blue. The figures’ hands are stretched out and their mouths open. The disposition and color of these works are intended to express solidarity with the newly independent African nations by illustrating self-reliance and determination.

The exhibition best represents Ringgold’s artistic understanding of intersectionality. One room features “The Feminist Series” and another “Protest Art,” but all of the pieces in the exhibition are intertwined. In a statement by Ringgold at the People’s Flag Show in 1970, she proclaimed, “Black women’s art is political. Women’s art is political. Art is political. Women…. Is political. Black……….. is political.” The intersectionality of her work is a powerful testament to Ringgold’s range as a creator.

Ringgold’s quilts are the most dynamic parts of American People. No two quilts are alike, nor are the stories painted on them different. The quilts were inspired by Ringgold’s desire to blend her feminist perspective with non-Western art forms. Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s from The French Collection is a humorous take on Stein’s eclectic tastes. Viewers are mesmerized by every fine detail of the artist’s living room, including the guests in her home. Quilts from The American Collection feature stunning and vibrant prints that illustrate the influence of black women on American history. On some quilts, Ringgold writes her own narrative in each square – an added didactic touch and a further credit to her devotion to detailed storytelling.

Faith Ringgold: American People is a comprehensive, well-crafted collection that honors Ringgold’s influence in promoting racial conversations in America. His compelling plays successfully expose the viewer to the complex realities of the civil rights movement and Ringgold’s artistry.

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].

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