“Promise, Witness, Remembrance” at the Speed Art Museum
Through June 6, 2021
What the museum says: “Promise, Witness, Remembrance at the Speed Art Museum will reflect on the life of Breonna Taylor, her killing in 2020, and the year of protests that followed, in Louisville and around the world. The exhibition explores the dualities between a personal, local story and the nation’s reflection on the promise, witness, and remembrance of too many Black lives lost to gun violence.
In ‘Promise,’ artists explore ideologies of the United States of America through the symbols that uphold them, reflecting on the nation’s founding, history, and the promises and realities, both implicit and explicit, contained within them. In ‘Witness,’ they address the contemporary moment, building upon the gap between what a nation promises and what it provides through artworks that explore ideas of resistance across time, form, and context. In ‘Remembrance,’ they address gun violence and police brutality, their victims, and their legacies.”
Why it’s worth a look: Just about 13 months after Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisiana police officers in her home, the Speed Museum’s exhibition is thoughtful, moving, and deeply unsettling. The focal point is Amy Sherald’s portrait of Taylor, looking regal in a bright blue dress, standing with hand on hip, forever 26 and beautiful. The painting, which is owned jointly by the Speed Museum and the Smithsonian, is situated at the end of a dark gallery, with a timeline of Breonna’s life printed on the walls.
As the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd rages on, and TV channels run competing stories about the death of two more Black men (Daunte White, and Adam Toledo), the inclusion of Khalil Joseph’s BLKNWS®, a fictional news channel dedicated to a celebration of Black life, reminds viewers that media portrayals seem almost exclusively to report on Black death.
Other works in the show are alternately beautiful and horrific, and sometimes both, as in Nick Cave’s Unarmed, a bronze sculptural hand raised surrounded by a wreath of flowers, or Hank Willis Thomas’s simple neon, Remember Me.
What it looks like:
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