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Life and Religion

Gantt Center exhibit captures America's civil rights struggle
'What We Ask is Simple' exhibit through March 2
Published Wednesday, August 29, 2018 12:59 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Don Sturkey’s 1957 photo of Dorothy Counts Scoggins de-segregating Harding High School is part of conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas’ retro-reflective “What We Ask is Simple” at the Gantt Center through March 2.

Chronicling social justice reveals more than the surface struggle.

Hank Willis Thomas’ “What We Ask is Simple” illustrates moments of protest throughout the 20th century as they share insight and invite the viewer to ponder their contemporary implications. It’s on view at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture through March 2.

Gantt Chief Operating Officer Bonita Buford and Collections and Exhibitions Manager Alexys Taylor saw the exhibit in New York, and felt it would fit with the Gantt’s theme of reveal.

“This was actually an exhibition that Alexys and I saw in New York at the Jack Shainman Gallery,” Buford said. “The work is all about 20th century protest movements. It’s civil rights in the 1960s, women’s suffrage in the early 1900s. There are photographs of the Stonewall Rebellion. As you go through, you see all of these different images of social movements.”

Thomas, a conceptual artist working primarily in photography and based in Brooklyn, New York, utilizes works screen-printed onto retroreflective vinyl, which are then mounted on an aluminum composite material. His work demands audience engagement through a change in perspective. To fully grasp the layers of his retro-reflective creations, flash must be incorporated through additional light, or special glasses.

“You can’t really see what it is,” Buford said. “We have special glasses that people can use, or they can use the flashlight on their phone, to reveal the image.”
Among Thomas’ works is Don Sturkey’s famous photograph of Dorothy Counts Scoggins de-segregating Harding High School in 1957.  

“One of the reasons we were really excited about this work was the well-known image of Dorothy Counts integrating Harding,” Buford said.

“What We Ask is Simple” is part of the Gantt’s theme “Revealed: Where art meets activism.” The latest instillation of exhibitions kicks off on Sept. 7 from 6-9 p.m., which coincides with Arts & Science Council’s Culture Feast along the Levine Arts campus.

For more information about the Sept. 7 event: www.eventbrite.com/e/revealed-where-art-meets-activism-exhibition-preview-party-tickets

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