Tour: 'Sadie Barnette: Dear 1968,...' at MCASD
I recently got the chance to see Sadie Barnette's solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Dear 1968,... combines family photographs, a handwritten letter, toys, and several altered pages of an FBI report, to explore an archive that sits squarely in the realms of the personal and political. The title of the exhibit is named after a large-scale graphite drawing in the exhibit, which reads, "Dear 1968," "Love 1984," hinting at the conversation between the artist and her father, Rodney Barnette, who joined the Black Panther Party in 1968.
A main focus of the exhibit are pages culled from the FBI surveillance report on her father, during his involvement with the Black Panther Party in Oakland, and his work with Angela Davis. The Barnette family was recently able to obtain the 500-page file through the Freedom of Information Act, which included extensive information of Barnette's family members and on the dismissal from his job at the Post Office. Sadie has embellished the pages with spray paint and stickers, highlighting several areas, and further revealing the once private documents. It was really moving to me personally, to see people move slowly across the gallery, reading each of the nearly 30 page of the FBI file on display.
The other portion of the exhibition features many family photographs, embellished in a similar manner. Some of my favorites include snippets of children's birthday parties, a young graduate, and a new father, suspended in a field of glitter reminiscent of the promise such images hold.
One wall is covered in a patterned wallpaper created from the official seal of the confidential documents. The wall featured two photos of Rodney Barnette, one in his Army uniform after being drafted to fight in Vietnam, and one in the iconic uniform of the Black Panther Party in his fight for racial equality in the U.S. On another wallpapered wall is an incredibly detailed graphite drawing of Barnette's mugshot next to a large scale printed signature of J. Edgar Hoover, former Director of the FBI.
Sadie Barnette: Dear 1968,.. is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego through September 2. Be sure to check out the new vlog where I walk you through the exhibit and give you my first impressions of the show. Video below! You can subscribe to my Youtube channel for more videos on black contemporary art.