Laney Contemporary’s latest installation is a view into the heart of the American Civil Rights Movements, both past and present.
In collaboration with Atlanta photography gallery, Jackson Fine Art, the dual exhibition features a selection of work titled "#1960Now" by award-winning fine art photographer and Atlanta resident Sheila Pree Bright alongside "The Fire Next Time" by prolific American photojournalist Steve Schapiro.
"It started as a serendipitous thing," said Susan Laney, owner and head curator of Laney Contemporary.
"When Anna Skillman, the owner of Jackson Fine Art, saw our space she loved it and suggested we do this show during the election. I knew when their exhibition was coming down so we went and picked it up and brought it here."
Upon entering the Liberty City-located gallery, visitors come face to face with four of Pree Bright’s large 16" x 16" high contrast black and white photographs of young protesters and activists in action captured during the 2013/2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, following the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
The featured selection of Schapiro’s work contains over two dozen silver gelatin photographs of major leaders and events surrounding the American Civil Rights Movement titled, "The Fire Next Time; photographs illustrating the James Baldwin classic."
The exhibition follows on the tails of the recent release of a new volume of Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" in combination with Schapiro’s photography. The book features a notable Forward by recently passed Georgia State Representative and Civil Rights Movement leader John Lewis, who is also featured in many of Schapiro's photos alongside the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, and A. Phillip Randolph.
"I think when the word gets out about this, we’re going to have a lot of reaction, simply because these photos are so powerful," Laney said.
"There’s so many familiar faces as well as the juxtaposition of Sheila (Pree Bright)’s work and her film."
Continuing throughout the exhibition, visitors are greeted by an increasing murmur as they near the rear of the gallery where a loop of Pree Bright’s 10-minute film titled "#1960Now: Art + Intersections" plays.
The film combines video clips of social activists and demonstrations alongside interviews with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and director Stokely Carmichael, as well as portions of Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" music video.
The film's audio track creates an atmospheric backdrop throughout the gallery as chants of "no justice, no peace" ring over Kendrick Lamar lyrics and interviews with aforementioned civil rights leaders.
"We’re hoping that word gets around and everybody is able to bring their kids, 'cause this is a show for everybody," said Laney.
"It’s the first photography exhibition we’ve had in a moment and I love the juxtaposition of Sheila and Steve’s work. I think it makes for a thought-provoking exhibition and it’s large enough that you can spend some time on it and recognize some faces to sort of get a feeling of what was going on then and what’s going on now."
The exhibition is up through Nov. 7 with a reception on Thursday from 4-9 pm. The gallery will be monitoring and limiting its occupancy during the reception in light of COVID-19 with dedicated outdoor seating and space for socially-distanced socializing, as well as optional indoor overflow space in the event of inclement weather.
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