Take a video tour of We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South on view to September 6, 2020, at Turner Contemporary (Margate, UK). This first exhibition of its kind in the UK showcases the work of artists and makers from Alabama and surrounding states, revealing a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s.
It brings together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states. The artists represented in the exhibition lived through the Civil Rights struggle and its aftermath, often in conditions of poverty. This art is characterized by the remaking and reuse of materials through necessity, custom, culture and innovation as well as a vital connection to place and nature. The exhibition also features Civil Rights music and documentary photographs that reveal the links between the art and its context.
Some works are in direct dialogue with this era of protest, while others evidence the longstanding impact of segregation and racial terror. Produced from the mid-20th century to the present, many of the artworks have come to Europe for the first time. In an era of worldwide protest on the streets, We Will Walk addresses issues of race, class and resistance through a diverse range of works developed outside of the mainstream.
Much of the work in We Will Walk draws on the tradition of the ‘Yard Show’, temporary outdoor environments made from salvaged materials. This includes the root sculptures of Bessie Harvey and Emmer Sewell’s iconic sculpture created outside her home in Marion County. The exhibition showcases a series of quilts from the isolated hamlet of Gee’s Bend (known today as Boykin) in Alabama, which are on display in the UK for the first time. These world-famous quilts have a distinctive style, and are often made from recycling old clothing such as blue jeans. The exhibition also features guitars by Freeman Vines, including one made from the wood of an old hanging tree. These artists turned impossible circumstances into innovative artworks.