Blackfish Gallery is proud to present the July 2020 Exhibition “Black Power is a Color.” Protest signs are graphic design. They have a message, font, hierarchy, medium, color etc. The Black Power Movement was full of graphic designs of art, power, and revolution. This show is a collaboration of three Portland-based artists: Danielle McCoy (Graphic Designer, Wieden + Kennedy*), Kareem Blair (Senior Designer, Nike*), and Christine Miller (Graphic Product Developer, Nike*). Their work takes inspiration from graphic artist Emory Douglass and painter Raymond Saunders.
Douglas was the graphic artist for the Black Panther Party and took their imagery in new directions. He is quoted as saying “Revolutionary art, like the Party, is for the whole community and deals with all its problems. It gives the people the correct picture of our struggle whereas the revolutionary ideology gives the people the correct political understanding of our struggle.” Saunders, on the other hand, had a different view on the “purpose” of “Black art” which he presents in the pamphlet titled “Black Is a Color” which he designed and published in 1967. The commentary expressed Saunders’s desire for race to be a means and not an end in his practice and that emphasis also needed to be placed on what made the Black artists works individually unique. These two juxtaposing views morphed together form “Black Power is a Color” - a timely exhibition from local industry graphic artists that displays artwork related to the current events with an emphasis on typography and color.
Blackfish Gallery stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests against racial inequity, police brutality, and systemic racism. We commit to examining our methods and practices and increasing equitable opportunities for Black artist voices at our gallery and in the community. As an actionable step, we have offered the gallery as a platform in July for these Black artists to amplify their experiences, thoughts and feelings during this urgent time calling for change. Our membership is listening and learning more about institutionalized oppression.
A virtual opening will be held on the Blackfish Facebook page @BlackfishGallery on Thursday evening July 2nd from 6pm-9pm featuring artist talks, gallery tour, live Q&A, and music with host Cedy Ced. 10% of all art sales will be donated to Y.G.B. Portland, a Pro-Black, Pro-Femme, Pro-Queer collaborative whose mission is to create spaces of joy and healing for the Black and Brown community of Portland OR. We share their belief that liberation will come from art, self-love, and community.
*This show is unaffiliated with Nike and Wieden + Kennedy. The views of the artists are their own expression.
Christine Miller (b. 1990, New York, NY, she/her) is a multimedia visual artist and curator based in Portland, OR. Miller’s artistic and curatorial practices center on bringing underrepresented black artists to the front of the Portland art community and beyond. Most recently Christine displayed her own work in a joint show “American Hex” at Fuller Rosen Gallery.
In American Hex, Miller pulls from her own collection of racist memorabilia to highlight the continued racism against black communities today. Her confrontational work is an attempt to “neutralize” these hateful Jim Crow-era objects, while bringing attention to the disgusting nuances of racial disparity and stereotypes that still exist today. Miller has been collecting racist memorabilia as a way to get them out of the wrong hands - to utilize them as a teaching tool and not to perpetuate the vitriolic ideas they embody. Her work mines the shadow archives of American history and reveals the root of ongoing racial tension in 2020.
Christine’s work in Black Power is a Color focuses on narratives of racism that has stood the test of time. Expanding from her book “My Black is the Color of the Sun” – Miller’s work in this show juxtaposes linguistics, personal experiences and vintage imagery to comment how embedded the principles of white supremacy is preserved in daily life.
Kareem Blair is a designer from Brooklyn, New York based in Portland, Oregon. In his work he seeks to align design with nature by drawing inspiration from earth’s textures, colors, and patterns. He explores consciousness around sustainable and equitable practices, and is interested in storytelling through design. Kareem is currently a Senior Designer at Nike/Jordan where he is part of the Sustainability, Business & Innovation team, and has led collaborations with Off-White, Gore-Tex, and Travis Scott. He has worked with MIT’s Media Lab, and is a guest professor at Pratt Institute.
Blair's work is influenced by his ongoing personal research of land ownership/theft and farming as it relates to Black people in the United States. At the beginning of 2019 Kareem began to focus on his own health, diet, and eating habits, and through that began an exploration of examining the food advertised to and available to Black communities. This led Blair to question the lack of Black-owned farms and Black farmers in this country, and to trace that back to the systemic racism that exists and makes it difficult for Black people to have land and food ownership. A domino effect is at play in which the absence of Black representation within the country’s food systems prevents Black communities from having complete agency over our nutrition.
Kareem's act of highlighting represents visibility, and it is a practical method for him to remember information that is important and relevant. By using highlighting in this work, he externalizes information learned and put emphasis on the meaning of certain words. With Land Owner and Community Plot Blair wanted to bring dimension to this series. In Community Plot he used multiple mediums such as soil to represent earth/land, plants to represent life/hope, and a wooden triangular raised bed to represent strength/resilience.
Danielle McCoy is an Antiguan-born artist and graphic designer currently based in Portland, Oregon, USA. She is particularly interested in examining the routine’s role as a foundational constituent of behavior, language, identity and institutions. It is through that lens she explores race, gender and culture. Typically her work takes the form of writing, graphic design or a combination of both.
Danielle’s pieces in this show utilize typography to somewhat reconcile with the [contemporary] condition of racial relations [in this country]. Sometimes, she has to step outside herself to make sense of racism. This series alludes to some of the questions, answers and assertions that have come forth from her internal discourse, wherein she tries to understand something
that should not ever have to be rationalized. She considers externally proclaiming these statements as a form of protest.
Featured in the Backroom Gallery this month is "My Voice/Our Voice" by Mami Takahashi.
A portion of sales of these works will be donated to Reclaim the Block who organize Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety.
Mami Takahashi, "Seeing You/Seeing Me: Bench", Digital Photography, 16 ½” x 21” (Framed)