Exhibition Reflections

In 2022 The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University presented the exhibition A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence. The decision to bring this major exhibition forward within our community was not taken lightly. We recognize that Northwestern University is and has been a site where Black students, faculty, and staff have sought visibility for their lived experience and fought for racial equity and where Evanston’s Black communities have experienced personal and systemic injustices.

Through a variety of practices the museum sought to recognize the challenging nature of the material, the range of responses it might elicit, and the impact it carried for visitors whose identities and experiences intersect with the histories presented.  In addition to interventions such as a reflection room, controlled site lines, a Visitors Guide, a Care Guide, and a guided meditation the museum sought to connect with audience through a comment cards allow museum staff to directly reply to visitors questions and concerns.

Over 400 visitors to the exhibition
A Site of Struggle shared their reflections through comment cards.

This is a selection of their responses.

About A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence

How has art been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize anti-Black violence within the United States?

Originating at Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art  A Site of Struggle  (January 22 -July 10, 2022) explores how artists have engaged with the reality of anti-Black violence and its accompanying challenges of representation in the United States over a 100 + year period.

Images of African American suffering and death have constituted an enduring part of the nation’s cultural landscape, and the development of creative counterpoints to these images has been an ongoing concern for American artists. A Site of Struggle takes a new approach to looking at the intersection of race, violence, and art by investigating the varied strategies American artists have used to grapple with anti-Black violence, ranging from representation to abstraction and from literal to metaphorical. The exhibition focuses on works created between the 1890s and 2013—situating contemporary artistic practice within a longer history of American art and visual culture. It foregrounds African Americans as active shapers of visual culture and highlights how art has been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize anti-Black violence.

The Block Museum tours to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama August 13- November 6, 2022

A Site of Struggle is curated by Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Block Museum of Art, with the assistance of Alisa Swindell, Curatorial Research Associate.

Lead support for the exhibition is generously provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bernstein Family Contemporary Art Fund, the Myers Foundations, the Block DEAI Fund, and the Block Board of Advisors. Generous support is contributed by William Spiegel and Lisa Kadin, the Alumnae of Northwestern University, the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and by Lynne Jacobs. The related publication is co-published by The Block Museum of Art and Princeton University Press and is supported by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the Sandra L. Riggs Publication Fund.