Fifty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an exhibit called “Radically Ordinary: Scenes from Black Life in America Since 1968” explores what it has meant to be black in America since the most turbulent year in modern U.S. history.
On view at the Allen Memorial Art Museum through Dec. 23, it comprises more than 80 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, artists’ books, and videos drawn primarily from the collections of the Allen and Oberlin College’s Clarence Ward Art Library.
While some of the works address the events of 1968 and the tumult of subsequent decades, others present images and narratives drawn from everyday life: posing for a snapshot, watching television, playing the trumpet, or sharing a meal.
Andrea Gyorody, the AMAM’s Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, argues it’s a radical act to prioritize the ordinary when images of violence and trauma against African-Americans predominate in the media.
“Everyday life also encompasses experiences of joy, beauty, togetherness and purpose,” she said. “Without a doubt, the racism, prejudice, and discrimination that Dr. King fought so hard to eradicate is also still a part of that everyday fabric, in the actual lives of African-Americans and in the ways those lives are represented in the works gathered here.”
• Tuesday Tea, 3 p.m. on Oct. 9
Chanda Feldman, assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College, will read from her 2018 poetry collection, “Approaching the Fields,” with selections related to themes in the exhibition.
• “Creating Space: Curating Black Art Now,: 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1
Naima Keith, deputy director of the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, will give a keynote address focused on contemporary black artists and social justice. Her free talk is part of the museum’s First Thursday series and will be followed by a reception.
• Focus on artists of color, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2
Curatorial leaders in the fields of African, African-American, and diasporic art will gather for sessions on what it means to curate black art today and how the museum itself is challenged and changed through a focus on works by artists of color. The day includes free formal presentations, objects talks by students, and a panel of Oberlin alumni working in the visual arts.