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Faith Ringgold: The Art of Civil Rights

John Jay College President's Gallery
899 Tenth Avenue
Upper West Side
June 6 - October 7, 2011
Web Site

John Jay College of Criminal Justice is proud to present the exhibition FAITH RINGGOLD: THE ART OF CIVIL RIGHTS, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Department of Art & Music.

Recipient of 22 honorary degrees and countless awards and honors, famed African-American artist Faith Ringgold is featured in this solo exhibition presenting her painted quilts and political prints from the 1960s and ‘70s.

A highlight of the exhibit, curated by Lisa Farrington, Chair of Art & Music and renowned art historian, is “Martin Luther King’s Letters from a Birmingham City Jail”—a suite of eight original hand-pulled serigraphs. The suite, a recent gift to the Africana Studies Department of the College from Ringgold, was produced in 2007 by the Experimental Print Institute (EPI) of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, with which the artist has a long time relationship. They are evocative accompaniments to the stirring text of the now historic, “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” written by Martin Luther King, Jr. from his jail cell in Alabama on the 16th of April 1963. King had been arrested for taking part in non-violent protests against segregation in Birmingham and wrote the letter in response to a public appeal from eight white clergymen asking Dr. King to desist in his protest efforts, except within the confines of the court system.

Ringgold is a graduate of CUNY (MA, CCNY 1951) and was an art teacher in the New York City Public School system for 18 years before becoming a professor in the Visual Art Department at the University of California at San Diego, where she served for another 17 years, retiring in 2002. Ringgold donated the works as an ongoing expression of her dedication to the education of young minds. The content of the exhibit and of the gift dovetails ideally with the mission of John Jay College, “Educating for Justice.”

Ringgold, an acclaimed artist, quilter, and author, began her artistic career in the 1960s, when she produced didactic political paintings and posters in Pop and Op Art styles. In the 1960s and ‘70s she also spearheaded the Black Arts and Women’s Art Movements with tireless dedication to arts activism. Ringgold has since become known for her painted story quilts—acrylic paintings framed in fabric, quilted, and accompanied by original narrative texts.

Ringgold has received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations, and honors, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting and two National Endowment for the Arts Awards. Her art has been exhibited in major museums around the world and is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Boston Museum of Fine Art, among others.

Ringgold’s first children’s book, Tar Beach, (based on her childhood in Harlem) won the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards for illustration. She has written and illustrated more than a dozen children’s books in addition to an autobiography, Anyone Can Fly.
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