Friday 20 Jun 2008
The first UK exhibition of the works of Emory Douglas, official
artist of the US Black Panther civil rights activists of the 1960s,
kicks off at Manchester's Urbis gallery this autumn.
Previously unseen in the UK, Douglas' work from the 1960s, including
posters, cartoons and campaign pamphlets, will appear in a
provocative new exhibition at Urbis in Manchester, from 30th October
2008 to April 2009.
Emory Douglas, campaigning artist of the Black Panther Party and its
first and only Minister of Culture, created a compelling,
motivational graphic style. His Black Panther salute is an
unflinching reminder of the mood of the late 1960s, and his art from
this period, documents growing civil unrest and rapid change.
'Black Panther' will show how Douglas' visual messages helped to
encourage a largely illiterate community to challenge the police
brutality, economic inequality and social injustice they were
experiencing, against a backdrop of growing civil disobedience and
the assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther
King Jr. Working alongside Urbis, Manchester, and with support of
lender and Black Panther historian, Billy X Jenkins, Emory Douglas
has helped to select the materials to relive the story for British audiences.
Douglas turned the Black Panther salute into a powerful emblem of
equality that has dogged politicians ever since. At the 1968 Olympics
in Mexico, two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos,
used the black-power salute on the Olympic podium, turning an entire
nation against them, and cutting short their own sporting careers.
With civil rights high on the agenda for the forthcoming Beijing
Olympics, Smith and Carlos have encouraged fellow athletes to make a
Emory Douglas became an active member of the Black Panther Party in
1967. He quickly became involved in the Black Community News Service,
a paper founded by Bobby Seale and at its peak, distributing 400,000
copies each week. His cover art, drawings and cartoons, referenced
recent events and news, including the killing of Little Bobby Hutton,
the campaign to free Huey Newton, and satirical treatments of
politicians including a pig-like President Lyndon B Johnson,
languishing on his toilet in the final months before his White House
term ended, an image that should chime with critics of the Bush
administration, due to end in January 2009.
Influenced by the propagandist art emerging from Vietnam, Cuba and
China, Douglas paved the way for contemporary artists like Banksy,
dub-poet Linton Kwezi Johnson and other vocal defenders of civil
liberties. His slogans, 'All Power to the People', 'Revolution in our
Lifetime', and his use of pigs and rats for the first time, to
represent police and politicians, have become part of everyday language.
Though often remembered for their militant stance, the Black Panthers
were far ahead of the state in providing welfare and education to
poor local families, and their passion to educate and empower is
demonstrated by the slogan 'Each One Teach One' and a preference for
giving books, not weapons, to new party members.
Vaughan Allen, Chief Executive at Urbis commented: 'Emory Douglas's
work is of its time, but is still as pertinent today, in Manchester
and around the world. The 'Black Panther' exhibition at Urbis will
relive some of the pivotal moments in the civil rights movement,
through the work of this uncompromising socially-driven artist. It's
a real honour to host Emory Douglas and his work in Manchester,
offering British audiences a first chance to share his talent, his
tenacity and meet the great man himself during a rare visit to Manchester'.