Save the Date: ICONIC: Black Panther Art Show – interview with co-curator Rosalind McGary

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Born during a tumultuous time in American history when the civil rights movement was beginning to bloom while racism prevailed amongst many, especially police and even government officials, the Black Panther Party formed to seek an equal future for oppressed communities in the United States and abroad. Fifty years later, there is still much work to be done.

The Black Pather Party for Self-Defense was founded in October of 1966 in Oakland, CA. by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The group’s name was shortened to the Black Panther Party and spread across the nation through black urban ghettos, leading to a Brooklyn branch during the politically heady summer of ’68. Emory Douglas, who had a background in art, printmaking, and activism became the BPP’s minister of culture and a central figure in the party, creating bold, memorable imagery. Douglas helped design the Black Panther newspaper which in its’ peak had a circulation of over 200,000. The BPP created free food programs, clinics, community newspapers, and neighborhood patrols against police brutality.

To honor, and draw attention to the BPP’s legacy and continuing struggle, SEPIA Collective is producing as a multi-city visual exhibition, featuring original BPP work combined with local and internationally recognized artists whose works reflect the continuing fight for equality.

ICONIC: Black Panther opens at Gregorio Escalante Gallery on April 8. The exhibit remains up through May 14. Expect some of the Panthers to be in attendance at the opening reception and at a special event for World Art Day, on Saturday April 15th.

Per the press release, “The Black Panthers have inspired an entire generation of people, and artists of every race, nationality, and creed are honoring them in this exhibit. The LA edition of Iconic will feature work by Emory Douglas, Shepard Fairey, Pilar Aguero-Esparza, Aise Bourne, Justin Dixon, Mark Steven Greenfield, Jorge R. Gutierrez, F. Scott Hess, Dr. Samella Lewis, Ali AL Sharji, Mohammed Mubarak, Tslil Tsemet, Lexx Valdez, and over two dozen more.”

There will be an opening reception for ICONIC: Black Panther on April 8 from 7 – 10 pm. Expect some of the Panthers in attendance.

We conducted an interview via email with the artist, Sepia Collective Founder, and ICONIC: Black Panther show co-curator Rosalind McGary.

The imagery of The Black Panthers is striking and a perfect subject for a group art show. Will your attendees also gain an education about the Panthers; their formation, the era that spawned them, and their lasting impact?

This show starts at the point of recognizing the ICONIC stature of the Black Panther Party as one of the most significant social justice movements in American History. From this starting point artists are encouraged to give their take on the party and the trajectory of its influence historically, socially, or in their own lives. The diversity of the artists and supporters involved guarantees discourse across racial, cultural and generational divides. The educational benefit of coming together with people different than ourselves in an environment that promote mutual respect and consideration is invaluable.

Tell us about talks and community events in conjunction with ICONIC: Black Panther in the Los Angeles area

Saturday, April 15 on World Art Day
Gregorio Escalante Gallery 2-4pm
SEPIA Collective will host a Round Table:
Bearing Witness:
Documenting Self-Determination

This event features activists, artists, and scholars exploring the importance of documenting the process and struggle for self-determination. This may be at the personal, communal or historic level. The featured speakers will use storytelling to share their perspectives on the value of recording such pursuits during and after they have taken place.

Confirmed speakers:
Hank Jones, (Panther, SF8)
Michael McCarty (Artist/Storyteller + Panther)
Ben Caldwell (LA Rebellion)
Alile Sharon Larkin (LA Rebellion)
Maytha Alhassan (Syrian American Writer/Academic)
Isabel Rojas-Williams (Curator + L.A. Mural Conservancy)
Mat Gleason (Coagula + Huffpost Art Critic)
Saturday, May 6 2017 12-2pm: Free Lunch Day

In honor of the Black Panther People’s Programs (23 in total), and to bring attention to the Panther started free lunch programs in jeopardy of being cut from public schools, Los Angeles Restaurants including Roy Choi’s LocoL will provide free lunches for a limited number of guests, DJ

What was your process in choosing artists for this show?

Our goal was to deliver a diverse group of artists who, by bringing their unique perspectives and styles to the show, chart a path for interaction and understanding amongst people who may be very different from each other.

SEPIA did this by

  • Incorporating Panthers who are artists in each show
  • Bringing in internationally recognized artists such as Emory Douglas, Dr. Samella Lewis and Shepard Fairey who have worked with SEPIA and are committed to participating in each show
  • A call for submission to ensure diversity
  • Gregorio Escalante Gallery invited some of their artists
  • Curator, Susu Attar, addressed our goal of creating a show that highlights the broad interest by seeking out artists in the national and international arena.

Which artists in the roster are international?

Ali Al Sharji, from, Muscat, Oman, he is Afro-Arab
Sundus Abdul-Hadi, from Montreal, Canada, he is Iraqi-Canadian

As per the press release, tell us about the original art from founding Black Panthers that will be in the show.

Emory Douglas was the minister of culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the Party disbanded. He created the Panther logo, and his graphic work was on most covers of the Panther Newsletter. He is an iconic figure recognizable the world over as the intersection between art and activism.

Akinsanya Kambon is a Professor of art at Cal State Long Beach. He served in Vietnam and recorded images from battle before becoming a Panther. He was the first to create a graphic for the Ten Point Platform of the Black Panther Party.

Mohammed Mubarak is an original Los Angeles Panther from Compton. He is a brilliant muralist and portrait artist whose work has been commissioned by Stevie Wonder, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, two Mayors of the City of Compton, and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas among others.

Can you give me a list of other cities who will be hosting the show?

Los Angeles is the second stop for ICONIC. We opened in Oakland October 2016 for the 50th anniversary. We will take the show to Chicago and New York City, dates to be determined. There are certainly more cities that have offered to host the show, and each time we do this the demand increases.

What was the reaction to the Oakland show?

The reaction to the Oakland show was overwhelming! We saw well over 1,200. People at the opening, and the whole city was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. The night we opened was Oakland’s art walk, and there were about 7 other shows centered around the Panther Party opening that same night, and still folks made it a point to come and see us throughout the course of the evening. SWAY Calloway, who grew up in Oakland and says he often was fed with the People’s Free Breakfast Program, flew in just for the show.

Will proceeds of sales go to any particular organizations or the Sepia collective?

Proceeds from the sale of the artwork for the Los Angeles show go to the artists, the hosting gallery, National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party in support of Panthers in need and their families, and the production budget for ICONIC Black Panther. In that order.

ICONIC: Black Panther
April 8 – May 14, 2017

Opening Reception:
Opening April 8, 2017. 7-10 PM

World Art Day event (presented by Cartwheel Art in partnership for IAA USA):
Saturday April 15th 2:00pm – 4:00pm. More here.

Gregorio Escalante Gallery + Medina Gallery,
978 Chung Kind Road,
Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Image credits:
Emory Douglas, Shepard Fairey, Sundus-Abdul-Hadi, Emory Douglas, Robbie Conal, Dr Samella Lewis



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