L i s a L u k y a n o v a
For the third consecutive day in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., there have been protests after the situation with 46-year-old African-American George Floyd, who died while being detained by police on May 25 under suspicion of using a fake banknote. Witnesses captured the moment of his arrest. The tape shows a policeman kneeling Floyd on the ground, face down, and holding him for several minutes while he was in this position, despite the man’s words that he had nothing to breathe. Floyd blacked out and passed away in the hospital.
The following day, the staff were suspended and dismissed, but protesters are calling for their arrest. Each day, more and more actions against police violence are taking place under the traditional slogan „Black lives matter“. On the night of May 29, protesters burned down a police station and several shops and cafes in the neighborhood.
Due to these circumstances we would like to remember artists who talk about racism through their art, proving that art has no colour.
Kerry James Marshall. Untitled (policeman). 2015. Synthetic polymer paint on PVC panel with plexi frame, 60 x 60″ (152.4 × 152.4 cm). Gift of Mimi Haas in honor of Marie-Josée Kravis
Kerry James Marshall’s work is rooted in African American history and contemporary life, and in his own experience as a black man in America. “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955, and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility,” he has said. He made Untitled (policeman) in response to the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of mostly white police officers. But the central figure of this painting, a policeman perched on the hood of his squad car, is black. Marshall’s anonymous officer complicates the issue of police shootings by reminding us of the many black people serving in the force. As the New York Times reports: “The deaths, the ensuing protests, and the fatal attacks on police officers in [response] have intensified the internal tug of war that black police officers endure, the daily duality of being black and serving in blue.”
Faith Ringgold. American People Series #20: Die. 1967. Oil on canvas, two panels, 72 × 144″ (182.9 × 365.8 cm). Purchase; and gift of the Modern Women’s Fund. © 2018 Faith Ringgold/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Faith Ringgold made American People Series #20: Die in the late 1960s, when the United States was engulfed in race riots. Unsettled by the fact that the media was barely covering the riots, and inspired by Pablo Picasso’s powerful depiction of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War in his painting, Guernica (1937), she decided to use art to document her own troubled times. “One of the most difficult things that I ever painted in my life was this picture, because of the blood,” she recalled. “If [the media] did show a photograph…of any kind of riot, they never showed the blood…So I wanted to make sure that I put the blood in there, because I knew that blood meant death, and that’s what happened at those riots.” Across this large-scale painting, she depicts a frenzied spectacle of violence. Professionally dressed black and white men and women bloody each other with weapons and their own hands. Two children—a black girl and a white boy—cower underfoot, clinging to each other. With this scene, Ringgold addressed the fraught race relations of the 1960s and expressed her fear that racial violence would continue into the future. “So now what do we have…in 2016,” she asked. “It just goes on and on, the violence.”