Free as They Want to be: Artists Committed to Memory is the companion publication to the FotoFocus biennial exhibition that runs at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (September 30, 2022 - March 6, 2023).
This project considers the historic and contemporary role that photography and film have played in remembering legacies of slavery and its aftermath while examining the social lives of Black Americans within various places including the land, at home, in photographic albums, at historic sites, and in public memory. The publication presents some 20 artists working in photography, video, silkscreen, projection, and mixed media installation: Terry Adkins, Radcliffe Bailey, J. P. Ball & A. S. Thomas, Sadie Barnette, Dawoud Bey, Sheila Pree Bright, Bisa Butler, Omar Victor Diop, Nona Faustine, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Daesha Devón Harris, Isaac Julien, Catherine Opie, Yelaine Rodriguez, Hank Willis Thomas, Lava Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Wendel A. White, William Earle Williams. The works they have conceived reflect defining moments in the struggle for racial justice and equality and advance a different sense of empowerment. The timing of a publication like this could not be more urgent given the human toll of the pandemic, widening economic disparities, the threat of war, voting rights, global migration crises, and quotidian violence.
The book and the exhibition are edited and curated by Cheryl Finley, Associate Professor, History of Art at Cornell, Director of the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art History at Spelman College, and Deborah Willis, Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
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