Sea History 169 - Winter 2019-2020

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and then, in May 1954, just as the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of American schools, he began to paint. Lawrence’s often lengthy captions that accompany the panels in the Struggle series feature excerpts from famous speeches as well as reports, letters, and petitions from anonymous soldiers and enslaved people. The Struggle Continues The struggle for democracy is as relevant today as it was during Lawrence’s life. Artists Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas add their contemporary perspectives to the exhibition through the presentation of recent works. Derrick Adams’s video, Saints “We crossed the River at McKonkey’s Ferry 9 miles above Trenton...the night was excessively severe... March (2017), pays homage to past which the men bore without the least murmur...” —Tench Tilghman, 27 December 1776. and present cultural influencers of Panel 10: Egg tempera on hardboard, 11 13 /16 x 15 15 /16 inches. (Metropolitan Museum of Art) New Orleans, capturing the footwork of local dancers who use Decatur Street as their stage. As Lawrence did in the Struggle series, Adams plays with vantage points, zooming in and out to transport us to see the past, present, and future anew through the motions of others. For his mixed media installation, Jacob’s Ladder (2019), Adams imagines Lawrence’s studio as a quiet self-reflection space, using materials such as the artist’s photographs and armchair. Referencing the biblical story, a ladder ascends directly from the chair to Adams’s original portrait of the elder artist. This homage to the transportive power of Lawrence represents, to Adams, “the continuous progression of Lawrence’s life journey and the most magnificent manner in which he expressed his ideas and vision.” Between the 18th and 20th centuries, American songwriters rewrote the lyrics to the melody of “America” (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) in support of causes including revolution, temperance, suffrage, abolition, Native sovereignty, and slavery. Bethany Collins’s America: A Hymnal (2017) is a laser-cut special-edition artist book unifying 100 versions of the song to show how words and meanings change over time. As the pages of this book are turned, the work is gradually destroyed. An a cappella recording of the hymns accompanies this installation. Hank Willis Thomas excerpts images from history and reproduces them in new ways. By combining historical research with technological processes, he pushes the boundaries of photography. Visitors can shine a flashlight on Turbulence (2018) and My Father Died for this Country Too / I Am an American (2017), to illuminate images “hidden” beneath the surface, such as a protester resisting arrest in Alabama and a demonstration at a “whites-only” beach in Florida. For Rich Black Specimen #460 (2017), Thomas used archival “runaway slave” advertisements to create a dynamic, larger-than-life three-dimensional version that injects personhood into the otherwise cruelly anonymous form. Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, 161 Essex St., Salem, MA; National Tour •Peabody Essex Museum: 18 January–26 April 2020 •The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 2 June–7 September 2020 •Birmingham Museum of Art: 17 October 2020–10 January 2021 •Seattle Art Museum: 25 February–31 May 2021 •The Phillips Collection: 26 June–19 September 2021 “If we fail, let us fail like men, and expire together in one common struggle...” — Henry Clay, 1813. Panel 23: Egg tempera on hardboard, 16 x 12 inches. (Collection of Dr. Kenneth Clark) SEA HISTORY 169, WINTER 2019–20


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