Titled Angela Davis: Seize the Time, the exhibit explores her enormous contributions as a philosopher, scholar, author and activist.
By Rashad Grove
Titled Angela Davis: Seize the Time, the exhibit explores her enormous contributions as a philosopher, scholar, author and activist. It also focuses on her arrest, incarceration and the trial that made her an international symbol of the Black Freedom Struggle during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Organized in partnership with the Zimmerli Art Museum at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, “the exhibition provides a compelling and layered narrative of Davis’s journey.”
Curated by Donna Gustafson, Zimmerli’s Chief Curator, and Gerry Beegan, professor in Art & Design at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, in collaboration with OMCA Project Lead Lisa Silberstein and Curator Peggy Monahan, the exhibit has come to the West Coast for the first time since its inception.
“The events of 1969 to 1972 launched a young, Black UCLA philosophy professor into international prominence, making her image an icon of hope and a symbol of Black resistance,” said Gustafson. “Our visitors were extremely moved by this exhibition, and we’re so glad that Seize the Time will make its way to the Oakland Museum of California to celebrate the life of Angela Davis, who is based in Oakland, and learn more about her extraordinary story.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with Zimmerli at Rutgers University to highlight a world-renowned historical figure with deep connections to our city,” added Lori Fogarty, OMCA Director and CEO. “As with our recent exhibitions All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 and Hella Feminist, Seize the Time connects our community with timely topics of both national and international significance with local and regional ties; in this case, we’re exploring the life of Angela Davis, a local icon with a global impact. We hope that visitors can dive deeper into the empowering legacy of Davis, and feel inspired to create change.”
Upon entering the gallery, two large prints show Davis in a UCLA lecture hall that’s packed to capacity. Nearby, a graphic of Davis designed by Félix Beltrán is on display. The introductory section invites visitors to learn of Davis as a progressive educator and one of the key figures of the Black liberation struggle. Her affiliation with the Communist Party, her termination from UCLA and her political activism which led to her arrest are all highlighted.
The second section delves into Davis’ placement on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in 1970 and her trial that garnered global attention. The “Most Wanted List” poster hangs on the wall and the reverse side reads “Sister: You Are Welcome Here,” displaying the dual reality that Davis faced. Additionally, a sketch from the courtroom shows Davis and her mother rejoicing at her not-guilty verdict.
Another section is focused on the community activists who led the “Free Angela” campaign. Buttons, stickers, photographs, postcards, letters, as well artwork by members of the Black Arts Movement are prominently featured.
The final sections center on Davis’ work against mass incarceration. Artwork from contemporary artists draws a link between the institution of slavery and the prison industrial complex, which is a motif of Davis’ work as a prison abolitionist.
At 78 years old, Davis remains committed to the freedom of Black people and those who suffer from injustice based on race, sexuality, gender and class.
In her distinguished academic career, Davis taught at the Claremont Colleges, San Francisco State University, University of California, Santa Cruz, Rutgers University and many more.
When she retired from UC Santa Cruz in 2008, Davis was named Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments.