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Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery at New York Exhibit


Slavery is an issue tackled more by contemporary historians than contemporary artists. But as Kane Farabaugh reports from New York City, artists at a special exhibit are putting a spotlight on slavery in America.

A matter of historical record is the subject matter of abstract art for Lorenzo Pace. He said, "My uncle, Julius Pace, pulled a lock out of a bag, and said hey, this lock was given to his father Joseph Pace, who got it from his father Steve Pace, the slave in our family. They've had the lock in our family for over one hundred years."

The shackles of slavery seen on display became the inspiration for Pace's children's book. It was also the inspiration for the expansive and colorful expression of art that adorns an entire wall of the exhibit.

Pace said, "We as contemporary artists have to talk about it. It's something that we feel is taboo. It should not be taboo. It should be the fabric of American history."

If a picture speaks a thousand words, this exhibit about slavery called "Legacies" speaks volumes about an issue that Faith Ringgold believes is better told by an artist than a historian. "We may not have known what the artist meant, but we know from the human experience what it is we're looking at,” Ringgold said. “In order to read the history, we have to know the language which in fact might have been changed, and that's an interesting question, but I believe I'll trust the art more than I will the history."

Much of the art about slavery at the exhibit moves off a traditional canvas. Artists like Joe Lewis use more than just a paintbrush to illustrate the emotions associated with a painful part of their cultural heritage. "I'm hoping that this exhibit will allow people step back from that a little bit, and realize how genetic we are, and not necessarily focus on the fact that this is what happened but this is something that could bring us together more than it tears us apart."

Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery runs through January 7th, 2007 at the New York Historical Society.