Between Yesterday & Tomorrow: Perspectives from Black Contemporary Artists emerged from DreamWeek San Antonio. The first official DreamWeek San Antonio event took place in 2011, the same year it was founded by Shokare Nakpodia, and it has since become a 17-day summit with more than 200 events across the globe. This exhibition is as its title and location describe: a show of all Black artists who are currently living in San Antonio, Texas. The curator, Barbara Felix, is an artist herself. To organize the show she searched for every Black artist in the city, chose 36 works from 17 of them, and then identified emerging themes her selections.
The exhibition brings together diverse perspectives from the artists, who range in age from 24 to 84 and who are of diverse cultures and backgrounds: some are queer, some are veterans, and some are immigrants to America. They also work in diverse media, including assemblage, photography, drawing, painting, mixed media, digital media, sculpture, and quilting.
Deborah Moore Harris’s American Legacy Too nods to African quilting traditions as narrative tools, while depicting a timeline of civil rights policies from 1619 to the present. Hands in the shape of the Black power fist are cuffed with various objects at every event on the timeline. Along the piece, viewers can read historical facts, such as: “14 out of 21 founding fathers were slaveholders.” The phrase “American Legacy” repeats all over the textile in red ink, and is reflected in a mirror image in black ink, connoting hidden perspectives and bloody violence. Harris shows the American legacy to include violence against Black Americans, as well as the liberation work civil rights leaders have done and continue to do.
Bernice Appelin-Williams’s Slave Narratives: Transbluency #5 and The Crutch Series are constructed from found objects. Both assemblages use pieces from demolished homes and businesses that once stood where San Antonio’s Alamodome Stadium stands today. Wooden walking crutches are coupled in their respective pairs with chains and are adorned with collaged objects such as beads, shells, transcriptions of interviews with former slaves, and photographs found at flea markets. Appelin-Williams used clear materials to enclose parts of the crutches into compartments to hold these objects and narratives, as if they’re capsules of time. The artist is showing these two works — made 11 years apart — together for the first time in this exhibition. She is uncovering the histories of Black San Antonians via the houses they lived in, the objects that surrounded them, and the stories they told.
Carmen Cartiness Johnson’s Invitation Only is a painting depicting a private party, replete with a bar, a band, and people dancing. The work’s aerial perspective heightens the excitement in this scene of people of all skin tones and genders who are enjoying each other’s company. Replete with energetic postures, the work celebrates the act of coming together, which is exactly what this exhibition aims to do. Barbara Felix and the Department of Arts & Culture collaborated to activate the exhibition space with various events: a poetry night, an artist panel discussion, a Pride Month event, a film night, and a dance event. This 11-month-long exhibition is meant to bring the Black community of San Antonio together through diverse media and perspectives.
Between Yesterday & Tomorrow: Perspectives from Black Contemporary Artists is on view at The Culture Commons Gallery through November 17, 2023.