American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s


PRESS RELEASE: American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s
, Mar  2 - Apr 27, 2013

American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s
Mar 2 – Apr 27, 2013

ACA Galleries is pleased to host the traveling exhibition American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s, which will be on view March 2 through April 27.  It will travel to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC in June 2013. 

For fifty years, Faith Ringgold’s art has commented on racism and gender inequality. Though best known as the progenitor of the African American story quilt revival, it is her pointed political paintings of the 1960s – many of which disappeared from view – that are the focus of American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960.

This exhibition, organized by the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY, is the first comprehensive survey of her early paintings. The exhibition showcases Ringgold’s two earliest series, American People (1962-1967) and Black Light (1967-1969), which have not been seen together since they were first exhibited in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

In both series, the artist explores issues of racial conflict, which are inextricable from her experience as an American. For instance, in the painting Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger (1969), Ringgold inscribes the American flag with the words “die” behind the stars, and “nigger” within the stripes. She once explained to an interviewer, “It would be impossible for me to picture the American flag just as a flag, as if that is the whole story. I need to communicate my relationship with this flag based on my experience as a black woman in America.” 

Resulting text-based works prompted political posters such as People’s Flag Show (1970), produced for an exhibition co-organized by Ringgold. That exhibition featured over 200 works made from, or about, the American flag, and ultimately led to Ringgold’s arrest and conviction for violating the Flag Protection Act of 1968. United States of Attica (1971), her most widely distributed poster of the 1970s, was created in response to the Attica prison riot in western NY. This poster, presenting a United States map across which appear written accounts of acts of violence, invites collaboration as Ringgold captions, “This map of American violence is incomplete. Please write in whatever you find lacking."

Ringgold found her political voice through these 1960s paintings, posters, and murals.  These works were also a vehicle for her discovery of artistic methods to express that voice: methods crucial for understanding everything the artist has since created.  More broadly, these paintings are pivotal for re-conceptualizing our understanding of artistic production in the 1960s.

There exists an incongruity between the fiery social climate emerging from Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, and the sterility appearing in the Pop and Minimalist movements of the same era. Faith Ringgold’s work offers clear insight, into what it meant to be an African American woman making her way as an artist during this critical moment in United States history.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany American People, Black Light with an essay written by the artist’s daughter, Michelle Wallace, Professor of English at City College, the City University of New York.  The show was curated by Thom Collins, Director of the Miami Art Museum, and Tracy Fitzpatrick, Neuberger Museum Curator and Purchase College Assistant Professor. 


Download Press Release (PDF)