Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation
On view during the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation visualizes what freedom looks like for Black Americans today and the legacy of the Civil War in 2023 and beyond. Highlighting the perspectives of contemporary Black artists, Emancipation features commissioned and recent works by Sadie Barnette, Alfred Conteh, Maya Freelon, Hugh Hayden, Letitia Huckaby, Jeffrey Meris, and Sable Elyse Smith. The seven installations span sculpture, photography, and paper and textile fabrications. The artists responded to John Quincy Adams Ward’s bronze sculpture The Freedman (1863) from the Carter’s collection. Initially sculpted by Ward before the end of the Civil War, the figure is depicted on the cusp of liberation, having ruptured his bonds, though they are still present as a reminder of his enslavement. It is one of the first American depictions of a Black figure cast in bronze, and this specific cast from 1863 is the only copy of its kind with a key that releases a shackle from the figure’s wrist. Supplemented by loans of Civil War materials that further enhance our understanding of past representations of Blackness, Emancipation demonstrates how historical art collections can serve as a resource and inspiration for contemporary artistic practices.
Maya FreelonGreater Than or Equal To, 2020
Tissue paper and adhesive
Hugh HaydenAmerica, 2018
Sculpted mesquite on plywood
Letitia Huckaby1 week old/Haskell Place, 2021
Pigment print on cotton fabric with embroidery hoop
Alfred ContehAura, 2021
Acrylic and urethane plastic on canvas
Sadie BarnetteFBI Drawings: Do Not Destroy, 2021
Powdered graphite on paper
Jeffrey MerisThe Block is Hot, 2020
Plaster cast, AC motor, concrete blocks, aircraft table, U link, pulleys, and ratchet strap
Sable Elyse Smiththe song spilling out, 2018
John Quincy Adams WardThe Freedman, 1863
Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation is organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and Williams College Museum of Art. The exhibition is co-curated by Maggie Adler, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper at the Carter, and Maurita Poole, Executive Director of Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University.
Funding for the living artists’ installations is made possible by Sasha and Edward P. Bass. The Carter’s presentation of Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation is supported by the Leo Potishman Foundation and the Alice L. Walton Foundation Temporary Exhibitions Endowment.