Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and Katie Fuller, Race and Revolution originally launched in 2017. On view until July 21, the show raises awareness of how, six decades after U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, schools are more segregated than ever, with studies finding that students from marginalized groups lack many of the resources given to their white counterparts.
Personal experience informs much of the show — in addition to Fuller and Lenochan, the featured artists are either students or have educational backgrounds. Found throughout are miniature classroom scenes from Carina D. Maye, an adjunct professor at Georgia State University. Her work comments on the inequity in standardized testing, with subtle details hinting at disorder among the charming, delicate little chairs and books fit for a dollhouse. New York-based special education teacher Uraline Septembre Hager sends a clear message with Like Feeding a Dog His Own Tail – the installation, a tiny desk caged in black fencing, is an obvious reference to how children of color from segregated schools are more likely to end up incarcerated.
Some works go for a more childlike approach. The Blackmoors Collage series, with its many brightly-colored plexiglass shapes held together with exposed nuts, bolts, and other fasteners becomes all the more impactful when you notice the panels hanging from silver coat hooks familiar to public school classrooms and lockers. With its squares of hand-stitched text and images, U.S. Citizenship Test Sampler captures the immigrant experience by recalling samplers used in Colonial America to teach young children needlework and the alphabet. The Tales of Red Rag Rosie Chalkboard depicts the history of slavery and racist violence in the U.S. with featureless white paper dolls (one is dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member) committing horrific acts against Black paper dolls. The scenes are countered on the opposite side of the chalkboard with a hopeful image of a young Black girl in a red dress, her back to the viewer, her small, outstretched hand clutching a piece of chalk.
Compared to the center’s previous show Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities, which featured towering pieces and audio-heavy installations, Race and Revolution is quieter, more contemplative, as if trying to simulate the ideal classroom environment it wishes were afforded to marginalized students in America. As if to confirm this, a small reading area outfitted with leather coaches and shelves of various books by authors of color sits tucked away in a corner. Perhaps viewers will use the space as an opportunity to take a seat, reflect on what they’ve seen, and learn valuable lessons from work by people who have experienced first-hand the harmful gaps in our education system.