This exhibition by Brooklyn-based photographer, musician and activist Bev Grant is part of a series of events accompanying the launch of Grant’s first monograph, Bev Grant Photography 1968-1972, published by OSMOS Books, New York (2021). The exhibition is curated by Katherine Gressel.
The book and exhibition draw from Grant’s extensive archive of photographs from this time period when she was on the frontlines as a feminist and political activist. After moving to New York City in the 1960s, Grant began photographing while participating in demonstrations such as the No More Miss America protest in Atlantic City and the anti-Vietnam War Jeannette Rankin Brigade in Washington, DC. As a member of the film collective New York Newsreel she gained access to groups including the Young Lords Party, the Black Panther Party and the Poor People’s Campaign.
Bev Grant’s photographs document pivotal public events, as well as intimate, behind-the-scenes organizing, including community support initiatives such as the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program and clothing drives and the Young Lords’ Garbage Offensive. Together, these photographs emphasize “the intersectionality and humanity of people struggling together towards a better world,” in the words of the artist (all quotations are from Bev Grant Photography 1968 to 1972, edited by Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, published by OSMOS Books, New York, (2021). They highlight the presence of women as a potent political force in many of these movements, and of multiracial coalitions. An image of the 1969 New Haven demonstration to free Black Panther leaders Ericka Hudgens and Bobbie Seale hones in on the sizable crowd of women of diverse ages and races (similar to the makeup of a contemporary Women’s March or Black Lives Matter protest).
This and other works for this exhibition were selected for their visual ties to past and present activism, in keeping with OSH’s mission to connect its revolutionary war-era history to today’s activist movements through contemporary art. The use of street theater and anti-capitalist messaging in the Halloween 1968 W.I.T.C.H Hex on Wall Street image evokes the 2011 Occupy protest. Specific protest signs and posters from this era feel strikingly similar to today’s slogans about women’s reproductive rights, police reform and the government’s failure to address economic or racial inequality and uphold the values on which the nation was supposed to be founded (one of the photographs on display captures a protester from the 1968 NYC Anti-Imperialist March carrying a quote from the Declaration of Independence).
In his introduction to the monograph Bev Grant Photography 1968-1972, William Cordova writes that rather than trying to “convince us of the significance of a static moment…Grant compels us to narrate our own experience in what we see.” Such details may remind us of ongoing struggles for justice decades later, but also of progress made due to the creativity, persistence and coalition-building depicted in these images. Says Grant, “I am hopeful about the future, but I don’t try to give advice to the younger folks who are shaping it. The most I have to offer is a look back at history – from which we all can learn.”
Gallery hours will be Noon – 4 pm, most Fridays – Sundays through March 25. Please check the calendar for dates.
Visit our Exhibitions page here for more information. Details on public programs coming soon.
Image: November 22, 1969, Women’s demonstration at the court house protesting the trial of Black Panther leaders, Erika Huggins and Bobbie Seale. New Haven, Connecticut. Courtesy of OSMOS New York.