Press Release

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 5:04pm
Final Weeks for Public to See Timely Multimedia Artwork by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas Featuring Conversations With Black Men Across U.S.
Question Bridge: Black Males Presents Dialogue Between 160 Black Men Sharing Personal Stories, Beliefs, and Values, Simulating Face-to-Face Conversation, On View in OMCA’s Gallery of California Art Through February 25

(Oakland, CA) January 25, 2018—The public will have a final opportunity to experience the powerful presentation of Question Bridge: Black Males, on view through February 25 at the Oakland Museum of California. A recent acquisition to Museum’s permanent collection, the project presents Black men talking about themes important to their lives today. Also in the collection of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Question Bridge has become widely recognized as a work of national significance.

Hailed as one of the Bay Area’s Top Exhibitions in 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, the innovative video installation features dialogue between 160 black men recruited from nine American cities and towns, edited in a way so that it appears as if the men were having a conversation. Encompassing themes of family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, and wisdom, Question Bridge presents nuanced portraits of past, present, and future black men in American society.

“When we first presented Question Bridge: Black Males in 2012, it had a profound impact on visitors,” said Director of Exhibition Strategy and Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman. “Six years later, in today’s polarized political and social landscape, Question Bridge continues to offer inspiring messages about the power of human connection. In its final weeks, we hope that visitors will take the opportunity to experience this extremely timely piece, an important conversation that will help us to understand each other better.”

Question Bridge was directed by celebrated African American artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas, in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. The four collaborators have traveled throughout the United States to towns and cities including Oakland, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Birmingham, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Philadelphia creating 1,600 video exchanges in which the subjects serve as both interviewers and subjects—posing and answering each other’s questions that are woven together to simulate a stream-of-consciousness dialogue through which important themes and issues emerge. Represented are men from different geographic, economic, generational, educational, and social strata of American society. The Question Bridge videos are a part of a larger project that also includes a user generated website, QuestionBridge.com, and a curriculum currently being offered to high schools and universities throughout the United States.

The artists intend that the Question Bridge project can be a catalyst for constructive dialogue among black men and others; and help correct the stereotypes about black male identity in our collective consciousness. “Question Bridge: Black Males opens a window onto the complex and often unspoken dialogue among black men, creating an intimate and essentially genuine experience for viewers and subjects, while providing new opportunities for understanding and healing. This project brings the full spectrum of what it means to be “black” and “male” in America to the forefront. Blackness ceases to be a simple, monochromatic concept,” notes the Artists’ Statement.


Question Bridge: Black Males is a fiscally sponsored project of the Bay Area Video Coalition and supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Institute: Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The California Endowment, The Tribeca Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, and the California College of the Arts. The project was supported by the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.

About the Collaborators

Chris Johnson
(co-director) originated the Question Bridge concept with a 1996 video installation created for the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Malcom X Library in San Diego, California.  In 1994, he co-produced and directed The Roof is on Fire with Suzanne Lacy, which was broadcast on KRON. Additionally, he authored The Practical Zone System: for Film and Digital Photography; currently in its 6th edition. Currently, he is a full Professor of Photography at the California College of the Arts where for ten years he served as President of the Faculty Senate. He is also the Media Wall Project Manager and Public Art Management Team member for Oakland Museum of California/Port of Oakland.

Hank Willis Thomas (co-director) is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. Thomas’ monograph, Pitch Blackness, was published by Aperture in 2008. He has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, Galerie Anne De Villepoix in Paris, Annarumma 404 in Milan, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, The Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. His video projects include Winter in America, In Search of the Truth, Along the Way, and The Long March. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.

 

Bayeté Ross Smith (producer) is a visual artist, multi-media artist and photographer. His career began as a photojournalist with the Knight Ridder Newspaper Corporation. Bayeté’s work has been shown with the 2008 and 2012 Sundance Film Festival,

the Oakland Museum of California, the Brooklyn Museum, Rush Arts Gallery, the Goethe Institute (Ghana), and Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Poland). Community engagement is critical to Bayeté’s art practice. He has had fellowships with the Jerome Foundation, the McColl Center for Visual Art, the Kala Art Institute and the Laundromat Project. His photographs have been published in numerous books most notably the cover of DisIntegration: The Splintering of Black America. He has worked as a faculty member at the International Center of Photography, The New School and New York University. Bayeté is Associate Program Director of the Kings Against Violence Initiative, a violence prevention program based out of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY.

Kamal Sinclair (producer) is a transmedia producer, theatrical director, community arts leader and multi-disciplinary artist. She serves as the Senior Manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, which supports artists working at the convergence of film, art, media and technology; and, as artist and producer on the Question Bridge: Black Males collaborative transmedia art project. In 2012, she served as a Transmedia Producer at 42 Entertainment. Her professional career began as a cast member of the Off-Broadway hit STOMP and founding artistic director of Universal Arts. As a consultant, she worked on projects for the Woodruff Arts Center, Fractured Atlas, Hank Willis Thomas Studio, the National Black Arts Festival and other arts entities that led to major funding for arts and arts education initiatives, the production of major audience engagement events, strategic planning for art programs and business training platforms for artists and arts managers. She graduated with her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and her MBA from Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business.

Other collaborators include award winning actor, director, and producer Delroy Lindo (executive producer); Deborah Willis, Ph. D. (executive producer) a 2000 MacArthur Fellow and Chair of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A 2005 Guggenheim and Fletcher Fellow and an artist, she is one of the country’s leading historians of African American photography; Antonio Kaplan and Elise Baugh (transmedia production partners) creative strategist behind Innovent, Inc.; and Jesse Williams (executive producer), critically acclaimed actor from Grey’s Anatomy and Brooklyn’s Finest.


ABOUT THE OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history, and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA's groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California's cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California's dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

VISITOR INFORMATION
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $15.95 general; $10.95 seniors and students with valid ID, $6.95 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $4 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitionsOMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum. museumca.org

UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS & PROJECTS

RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom
March
24–August 12, 2018
Hip-hop is one of the widest reaching cultural and social movements of the last 50 years. Discover the unexpected story of how hip-hop changed the world, starting from its roots on the streets, before rap, DJing, street art, breakdancing, and street fashion launched into mainstream popular culture. Learn about the West Coasts and San Francisco Bay Areas influences on this global phenomenon. Hear first-person accounts from artists and experts about how, beyond big business, hip-hop continues to provide a platform for creative expression, activism, youth development, and education. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.

J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life

April 21–September 9, 2018
Discover Northern California’s best kept secret in design and craft: J.B. Blunk (1926–2002), a mid-century artist whose connection to nature governed his daily life. Inspired by Japanese philosophies of nature and art’s inseparability, and influenced by rural utopian communities, Blunk’s muse and often his source of materials was the beautiful natural environment of Inverness, California. Blunk’s home property was his ultimate work of art, filled with his handcrafted furniture, ceramics, sculptures, and other functional objects used by his family. His remarkable craftsmanship also took the form of large-scale public works of art, including The Planet, a redwood sculpture commissioned by the Oakland Museum of California in 1969. J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life brings together a comprehensive survey of the artist’s works. See Northern California’s landscape anew through Blunk’s eyes, and get inspired to find the beauty of nature and art in your own daily life.


ON VIEW


Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Through January 13, 2019

Unearth Oaklands multi-layered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring the ecological and cultural factors of how and why food is grown in Oakland. Enjoy this hands-on exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oakland. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing foodincluding access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interactive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oaklands agriculture.
 


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