Faith Ringgold Wallops the Body Politic With Smashing Survey at Miami Art Museum

Sure there is the "Carlos Santana Arts Academy" in California's San Fernando Valley and an elementary school in the same area that named its auditorium after comedian George Lopez. But we're pretty sure there aren't many schools named after visual artists. Then again, Faith Ringgold isn't the average talent.

Best known as the foremother of the African American story quilt revival that blossomed in the 1970s, the artist is professor emeritus at the University of California. The life-long activist, artist, and writer is celebrating her 80th birthday with "American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold's Paintings of the 1960's," at the Miami Art Museum (MAM), an exhibit featuring 60 works capturing one of our nation's most turbulent eras.

Ringgold's blockbuster show opens with a preview reception this Saturday night and includes a special performance by Miami Soul crooner, Bobby Stringer in partnership with the Overtown Music Project.

On view visitors will discover her politically-freighted canvases and posters like People's Flag Show (1970), originally produced for an exhibition organized by Ringgold and two fellow artists in support of a gallerist who was arrested for exhibiting a sculpture protesting the Vietnam War crafted from bits of Old Glory.

For her gesture of solidarity, Ringgold was consequently convicted for violating the Flag Protection Act of 1968. During the period Ringgold told an interviewer, "It would be impossible for me to picture the American flag just as a flag, as if that is the whole story. I need to communicate my relationship with this flag based on my experience as a black woman in America." You can see Ringgold speaking about political art here.

The sprawling show marks the first comprehensive survey of the artist's landmark paintings and presents an unprecedented view of Ringgold's arresting exploration of intersections of race, gender, and class created in direct response to the tumultuous social upheavals of the era.

The exhibition also marks MAM director Thom Collins' curatorial debut in South Florida and is the museum's featured Art Basel showcase.

"It is incongruous that the art of a period defined by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, the woman's movement and the first-wave feminism, has become defined by the rather sterile movements of pop art and minimalism, movements that generally fail to connect with the social and political circumstances of the time," observes Collins.

"Faith Ringgold's work offers not only clear insight into that important moment in the history of our country, but also insight into what it meant to be an African American woman making her way as an artist at the time" Collins concludes.

"American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold's Paintings of the 1960s," at the Miami Art Museum (101 West Flagler Street, Miami) through January 1, 2012. Tickets for the Preview Reception/Performance cost $20. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call 305-375-3000 or visit miamiartmuseum.org.

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