Howardena Pindell: Black Female Art-Ist

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday November 4, 2020

In 1963 LIFE Magazine published a photo by Charles Moore of a black man being arrested during a civil rights protest in Birmingham. Howardena Pinell (b. 1943 Philadelphia)  proposed a video based on the photo, and others of Civil Rights clashes she saw as a child, to the AIR Gallery, in New York City. The gallery, which is the country’s first female-run, feminist co-op space, founded in 1972, where Pindell was the only Black co-founder, turned it down. AboveBirmingham Protests, 1963. © Charles Moore/Blackstar/Eyevine 

Now, she’s finally been able to realize the video, which combines archival images of non-violent protests, alongside a list of the names of black lives who died from police brutality. It’s dedicated to the civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis, who died earlier this year, and is currently on view at The Shed, in New York City

In the video, the artist narrates the statistics, including the fact that there have been over 4,000 lynchings between 1877 and 1950. “It deals with the horrors of lynching, slavery and the children’s march for civil rights also in Birmingham, Alabama, where a church was bombed,” said Pindell.

“The trauma of racism, I feel, is there [in her video] for everyone to see,” said the artist in a recent interview with The Guardian. “If you are not a person of color, you may not even notice what is going on,” she added. “When you look different, you can become a target for others’ unresolved issues, where they take out their rage on people who do not look like them.”

The exhibition, Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water features over 15 pieces, from wall works to videos, that span the breadth of the artist’s 60-year career. It continues at The Shed which until 11 April 2021. Info On Friday, November 



Footnote: In 1964 Andy Warhol appropriated one of the images from that Birmingham demonstration for a silkscreen painting titled, “Birmingham Race Riot;” the painting became widely known very quickly. It was the first of 10 similar paintings plus a small print for a portfolio commissioned by the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.  [See DART feature] The painting (above)  subsequently sold for $62,885,000 at Christie's in New York (May 2014).

The photographer, Charles Moore (1931-2010), of Blackstar, a White, Southern journalist, made the Civil Rights Movement the main subject of his work. He was applauded by President John F. Kennedy, Jr. for documenting the movement in images that hastened the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in 1964. Moore sued Warhol for unauthorized use of the image; the suit was settled out of court.    

Editor's note: 

I chose to spell Artist “ART-IST” for a new series of features on Female art-makers of color. 

The usage is coined by curator Francesco Bonami, and for me it makes a necessary distinction between an artist with gallery representation and a line of collectors waiting for the next body of work that can be identified as being done by that [branded] artist.

An Art-Ist, on the other hand, is an art-maker who makes art that express his/her/their orientation, beliefs, essential being [“ist” in German, means “is”] and the like. An Art-Ist is one who can’t not make art.



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