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    High Commissions Artists to Create Works in Response to Ongoing Relevance of Civil Rights Movement

    ATLANTA, January 15, 2008 – In June 2008 the High Museum of Art will premiere newly commissioned and recent works, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and its ongoing relevance, from seven emerging artists and collectives. "After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy" will present painting, sculpture, photography, video, sound and light works by Deborah Grant, Leslie Hewitt, Adam Pendleton, Jefferson Pinder, Nadine Robinson, Hank Willis Thomas and Otabenga Jones & Associates. The exhibition will examine the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement while exploring the continuing relevance of progressive social change. In conjunction with the exhibition, the High plans to acquire a work by each of the artists for its permanent collection.

    "After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy" opens concurrently with "Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968," another major exhibition the High is presenting, which is devoted to photographs of the Civil Rights Movement. "After 1968" is organized by Jeffrey Grove, the High Museum's Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; "Road to Freedom" is organized by Julian Cox, the High's Curator of Photography. Both exhibitions will be on view in Atlanta from June 7 through October 5, 2008. Following Atlanta, both exhibitions will travel to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (November 8, 2008 – March 9, 2009). "After 1968" will also travel to the California African American Museum, Los Angeles (November 19, 2009 – March 7, 2010), while "Road to Freedom" will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles from November 16, 2009, through March 1, 2010.

    "The 'After 1968' artists approach issues of racial identity, commodity culture and political action with a fresh point of view," said Michael E. Shapiro, the High's Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director. "Born in or after 1968, a pivotal year in the Civil Rights Movement, these artists explore issues ignited by the movement using a different social and visual language than that of their parents. Given Atlanta's prominent role in the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, it is very fitting for the High to organize this exhibition, and we are excited to expand our collection of contemporary art by acquiring new works by the artists in the exhibition."

    Many of the artists in "After 1968," including Deborah Grant and Adam Pendleton, will create new work in direct response to images in the companion exhibition, "Road to Freedom," while others, such as Nadine Robinson and Otabenga Jones, will present new and recent work. Deborah Grant will work specifically with photography from "Road to Freedom," incorporating the images into her intense collage work. "After 1968" will also feature the premiere of Hank Willis Thomas' "Unbranded" series, the first time the series will be shown as a complete body of work. "Unbranded" represents advertising images from which the text has been stripped, producing a reflection on the historical formation and dissemination of stereotypes.

    "'After 1968' responds to the legacy of the year 1968, when political unrest and social upheaval dominated the landscape," said Jeffrey Grove, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the High Museum. "In the art world, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, the visual, recording and performing arts flourished with work created in direct response to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. By the 1980s and 1990s, however, that dialogue shifted increasingly to embrace a broader critique of racial politics. The artists represented in 'After 1968' are responding with the fresh eyes of those who grew up in the aftermath of the movements."

    "After 1968" Artists
    Deborah Grant, born 1968, crafts her interests in identity politics, colonialism, art history, cartoons, graffiti and language into intense, distinctive images indebted to great traditions of collage, particularly Russian Constructivist and Suprematist strategies. Using a process she calls "Random Select," Grant accumulates messages and symbols from popular media and contemporary culture and transforms them into artworks that signal a new set of messages. Looking at history, particularly art history and the position of African Americans within it, her work offers critical and often witty observations on subjects from conspiracy theories and power structures to sidewalk conversations and pop culture.

    Leslie Hewitt, born 1977, creates photo-based sculpture and installations that focus on African American culture and how it is defined by images and memory. Exploring the connections between memory, the passage of time and the role photography plays in recapturing the past, Hewitt reuses images of Civil Rights activism to examine issues of race, revolution, protest and the ideological issues surrounding visual reproduction—how the appearance of originality embedded in the photocopy continues to construct one's racial and cultural identity and one's relationship to the past.

    Adam Pendleton, born 1980, is an artist, writer and performer who creates multi-disciplinary works investigating historical moments, language and images. Engaging traditions of appropriation and conceptualism, Pendleton often adapts images from popular culture and lines from modern African American literature and music, silk-screening them onto monochromatic canvases. By stripping text and images of their original context, he invigorates their meaning, shifting them into an area of artistic inquiry where cultural-political meanings—what is heritage, what is history, what is self-fashioned—are all questioned.

    Jefferson Pinder, born 1970, is a visual and performance artist who uses primarily video to examine the subjectivity of being an African American in an increasingly fragmented contemporary society. Pinder describes his art practice as mining the media. By sifting, cutting and slicing through contemporary media and popular culture, he isolates pieces of information that he later reconstructs to form a history, narrative or story. Pinder's work explores how conflicted the truth of identity surrounding representations of African Americans remains.

    Nadine Robinson, born 1968, presents artwork situated at the crossroads of the white modernist canon (her personal icons include Robert Ryman, painter of manifestly "white" canvases) and the African American contemporary aesthetic. She works in a sleek, minimalist vocabulary, combining appropriated music and sounds, DJ equipment and unconventional materials. Her large-scale installations reflect upon social, cultural and historical politics and are informed by an array of influences from Christianity to Rastafarians to hip-hop culture. Her work often speaks to the disconnection between Western and non-Western culture, the past and the present, and art and popular culture.

    Hank Willis Thomas, born 1976, appropriates images and language from advertising, exploring the intersection of commerce with the cultural ambiguity underlying African American experiences. His 2004 thesis, "Swoosh: Looking Black at Nike, Moses, and Jordan in the '80s," explores the process whereby a myth or image can become attached to a graphic symbol. His soon-to-be-completed "Unbranded" series is an exploration of racial typing in capitalist culture. Reproducing 80 images printed between 1968 and 2008 in popular magazine ads targeted to black audiences, "Unbranded" presents text-stripped images, meditating on the creation and dissemination of stereotypes.

    Otabenga Jones & Associates (Robert A. Pruitt, born born 1975; D. Jabari Anderson, born 1973; Jamal Cyrus, born 1973; Kenya Evans, born 1974) is a Houston-based educational art collaboration named after Ota Benga, a "Pygmy" brought to the United States from Africa in the early 1900s and exhibited at the Bronx Zoo, who committed suicide after being released from captivity. The group explores African American identity politics through installation and performance art. Their work in all media addresses how African Americans create their own sense of identity, and it draws heavily upon historical Civil Rights and black-power images of the 1960s, socially conscious hip-hop of the 1980s and contemporary black culture.

    Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968
    Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, "Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968" is the most important art museum exhibition in two decades devoted to photography of the Civil Rights Movement. Comprising approximately 200 photographs, many of which have never been displayed publicly, the exhibition will be drawn primarily from the High's permanent collection, along with loans from institutions and private collections. Organized by the High Museum of Art, "Road to Freedom" includes unforgettable images that changed a nation, increasing the momentum of the non-violent movement by raising awareness of injustice and the struggle for equality in America. "Road to Freedom" is supported by Sandra Anderson Baccus, The Atlanta Foundation, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Toyota, American Express, Turner Broadcasting and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

    Organization and Support
    "After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy" is organized by Jeffrey Grove, the High Museum of Art's Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, American Express and Turner Broadcasting.

    Modern and Contemporary Art at the High
    In the 1970s and 1980s, the High's modern and contemporary collections grew in strength and size through the steady acquisitions of works by such artists as Max Ernst, Mark Rothko, Romare Bearden, Philip Guston, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Morris, Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg. In the last decade, in preparation for the opening of the Museum expansion in 2005, the High has continued to focus on contemporary acquisitions, with the full modern and contemporary collection totaling 2,202 works today. Significant recent acquisitions include the work of Chuck Close, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Agnes Martin, Roy Lichtenstein, Spencer Finch, Donald Judd, Fred Wilson and Gerhard Richter.

    High Museum of Art
    The High Museum of Art is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art and significant holdings of European paintings, modern and contemporary art, photography and African art, and a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists and is distinguished as the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art. The High's Media Arts department produces acclaimed annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic cinema. In November 2005, the High opened three new buildings by architect Renzo Piano that more than doubled the Museum's size, creating a vibrant "village for the arts" at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta. For more information about the High, please visit High.org.

    The Woodruff Arts Center
    The Woodruff Arts Center is the largest arts center in the Southeast as well as one of the four largest in the nation. The Woodruff is unique in that it combines five visual and performing-arts divisions on one campus as one not-for-profit organization. Opened in 1968, the Woodruff Arts Center is home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, Young Audiences and the 14th Street Playhouse.

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