OMCA Acquires Multimedia Artwork by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas Featuring Conversations with Black Men, About Black Men Across U.S.
(OAKLAND, CA) August 8, 2017—The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) presents Question Bridge: Black Males on view September 29, 2017 through February 25, 2018. A recent acquisition to the Oakland Museum of California’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. OMCA is proud to acquire this groundbreaking and poignant work for its collection.
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.
In 2012, the Oakland Museum of California presented Question Bridge as a video art installation. Since its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival New Frontier in 2012, the project has been exhibited in over 30 museums, festivals, and institutions nationwide. The presentation featured in OMCA’s Gallery of California Art is a chapel-like setting inspiring reflection and group gathering.
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.
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 exhibitions. OMCA 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
The Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown
October 7, 2017–January 21, 2018
This fall, experience the world premiere of The Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown, a dazzling immersive experience that takes you through the rainbow into another world. A one-of-a-kind and interactive environment by FriendsWithYou—the artist collective including Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III—the large-scale, light-filled installation sparks joy and positivity, and sets the stage for friendship, magic, and social connection. A soothing, multi-sensory experience for all ages, we invite you to allow your senses to get lost in this imaginative and otherworldly place.
Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead
October 18, 2017–January 14, 2018
This year, OMCA’s biennial Days of the Dead exhibition is inspired by the lifecycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Known for its mass migration each winter, this butterfly’s journey spans several generations, all of whom follow the same routes their ancestors took. In Mexico, the returning Monarchs also symbolize the returning souls of loved ones who have passed away.
In Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead, explore ofrendas and artworks inspired by the Monarch’s migration and themes of tradition and transformation. View rarely-seen butterfly specimens from OMCA’s collection alongside newly commissioned artworks. Artist Hung Liu honors her mother’s passing through a series of heartfelt paintings. Favianna Rodriguez ponders migration and immigration in a new way using her “Migration is Beautiful” butterfly imagery. Chris Treggiari and Peter Foucault honor colleague Alex Ghassan, who lost his life in the tragic Ghost Ship fire. And, traditional Days of the Dead altars by Bea Carrillo Hocker and Rafael Jesús González, as well as installations by Oakland International High School and Thornhill Elementary School, energize this communal space for reflection and empowerment in these turbulent times.
Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
December 16, 2017–January 13, 2019
Unearth Oakland’s 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 food—including 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 Oakland’s agriculture.
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 Coast’s and San Francisco Bay Area’s 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 26, 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 , a redwood sculpture commissioned by the Oakland Museum of California in 1969. 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.
Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest
April 29–August 20, 2017
Roy De Forest’s vibrant works present playful visions that take us on a trip into alternative realities. In Spring 2017, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will present Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest, an exhibition designed to simulate an adventurous exploration of the artist’s dream-like and sometimes humorous works. Large, colorful paintings and sculptures spanning De Forest’s career will provide visitors the opportunity to navigate their own journeys by exploring vistas and portals into imaginative worlds. Listening stations throughout the exhibition will let visitors drift deeper into individual works, led by an array of exhibition-related character guides ranging from dog trainers to art historians and ship captains. A hands-on space will provide a social experience and allow visitors to manipulate and engage with textured, tactile materials and shapes inspired by De Forest’s artwork. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.
Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing
May 13–August 27, 2017
Through the lens of her camera, Dorothea Lange documented 20th century life with riveting, intimate photographs that showed the major issues of the times. The emotional impact of her works continues to resonate with millions and illustrates the power of photography as a form of social activism. From documenting the plight of Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression to magnifying the grim conditions of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, Lange’s photographs demonstrate how empathy and compassion, focused through art, can trigger political action. Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing presents approximately 100 photographs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the artist’s gift of her personal archive to the Oakland Museum of California. Drawing upon vintage prints, unedited proof sheets, personal memorabilia, and historic objects, this exhibition takes a unique approach to a beloved American photographer by examining how her artistry and advocacy swayed minds and prompted significant change in this nation’s history. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.
Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact
This exhibition in OMCA’s Gallery of California Natural Sciences takes a look at the wildly diverse and intricate world of one of the most important creatures to human agriculture and the natural environment. Through family-friendly experiences, hands-on activities, and media, Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact touches on topics of honeybees and Bay Area beekeeping, the diversity of California native bee species, citizen science projects, and the similarities between bees and humans. Visitors will discover real bee specimens under a microscope, crawl through a human-sized beehive, and try on a beekeeper suit. In an immersive gallery environment, visitors can explore the causes of bee population decline, learn about the significance of bees to California’s economy and ecosystems, and discover how simple but powerful actions by Californians can help bees to survive in a changing world.
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