“A stunning and information-rich exhibition for Manchester and the UK; it feels almost revolutionary.” Museums Journal
Emory Douglas, revolutionary artist and leading member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, is one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights revolution. As the official artist of the Black Panther Party and its first and only Minister of Culture, his career illustrated its rise and fall – and his work provides a rich, visual history of a radical political organisation that was reviled and respected in equal measure. This exhibition at Urbis was the first UK showing of the work of Emory Douglas and was rated by Museums Journal as one of the “top 10 exhibitions of the decade”.
Begining at that controversial moment at the 1968 Mexican Olympics, when John Carlos and Tommy Smith raised their fists in a Black Power salute, the exhibition looked at the meaning and the power of the symbols, icons and slogans behind the civil rights revolution – and which were in turn based on Emory Douglas’ compelling graphic style. It was Douglas who introduced the slogans and the visual metaphors – such as “all power to the people” and “revolution in our lifetime” – that have gone on to form part of our everyday culture. His art not only documented growing civil unrest and rapid change; it brought that change about.
Pollyanna worked directly with Emory Douglas and Black Panther archivists in San Francisco on the concept, content and delivery of an exhibition that included original artwork, posters, cartoons and historic objects, many of which had never been seen before in the UK. A bespoke exhibition design, with accompanying large-scale installations, detailed social and political history, and a comprehensive music and film programme, led to an exhibition that felt urgent, timely and all too relevant.