Vanguard Revisited

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures

Collaborative Practices led by Jeff Gunderson presented with University of California Santa Cruz

Guest curated by Leila Weefur

January 22–April 7

In 1968, when Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones first began photographing members of the Black Panther Party, the ingenuity of the party’s diverse organizing tactics had begun to capture the imagination of people hoping for revolutionary change. The Black Panther Party’s multifaceted approach to community activism, together with strong political education campaigns, coalitions with local and national organizations, and international relationships built from legacies of organizing within Black communities, created a template for decades of organizing to come.

Vanguard Revisited exhibits images from the photographic essay BLACK PANTHERS, 1968—initially shown at San Francisco's de Young Museum 50 years ago—alongside never-before-seen images of the Black Panther Party from 1969 onward. San Francisco Art Institute (where Baruch and Jones met while studying under Ansel Adams, and Jones later taught for many years), in partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz, brings this expansive archive into conversation with contemporary artists, drawing on a not-so-distant past to discuss a still-volatile present.

Poetic Politics & Black Futures is a living archive of political possibilities. Artists Kija Lucas, Tosha Stimage, 5/5 Collective, and Chris Martin present a range of creative and radical resistance. Working in concert with the archival photographs, this exhibition of contemporary work assembles a new understanding of the Black political imagination. To disrupt the assumption that activism needs to be aggressive or didactic, the artists employ symbolism associated with Black radical traditions, making space for nuance and complexity.

5/5 Collective and Lucas use a taxonomic approach to examine “Home” by gathering and archiving objects, offering a quiet confrontation to the viewer’s notions of “Home” and Blackness. Stimage and Martin use high-contrast iconographies that serve as bold punctuations to the “What We Want, What We Believe” sentiment of the Panthers’ legendary Ten-Point Program. Black Futures is not delivered with a passive voice, but a voice steeped in deft poetics and sharp politics that continues to accumulate power from its own rich history.

Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures was organized by San Francisco Art Institute in partnership with the University of California, Santa Cruz and made possible in part by a generous grant from the Pirkle Jones Fund. Special thanks to the SFAI Collaborative Practices class led by Librarian and Archivist Jeff Gunderson with SFAI students Eliza Phelan-Harder, Kathryn Porter, Yang Bao, Mikayla Mays, Midori Kimata, Katrina Magowan, and Candice Rongwan Xia; guest curator Leila Weefur; UC Santa Cruz Outreach & Exhibits Librarian Jessica Pigza and UC Santa Cruz Public Humanities Fellow Lani Hanna; SFAI President Gordon Knox; Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Jennifer Rissler; Vice President of Operations and Facilities Heather Hickman Holland; Manager of Exhibitions, Events, and Partnerships Kat Trataris; and Chief Preparator Robin Beard.

The Visiting Artist + Scholars series will present a conversation in conjunction with this exhibition. More information forthcoming.