The Blanton Museum looks at the 1960s Civil Rights Movement through the hands and lenses of artists.
Turbulent, provocative times deserve equally turbulent and provocative art, whether we’re talking about the 1960s or the second decade of the 21st century. Through May, the Blanton Museum of Art hosts the touring exhibition “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” which aims to examine how painters, photographers, sculptors, and other artists were affected by the civil rights movement and how they commented on it through their various pieces of artwork.
First organized by the Brooklyn Museum in 2014, the exhibit includes a half-century-old video of the late African American musician Nina Simone singing “Mississippi Goddam,” her celebrated song about racially based murders and unrest in the South, as well as 100 works by 66 artists, including Romare Bearden, Barkley Hendricks, Gordon Parks, Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Richard Avedon, and Edward Kienholz, among others.
There’s a particular synergy with the exhibition coming to Austin, site of the LBJ Library: the scholarly home to the president during some of the movement’s most tempestuous years. On April 8, in conjunction with the Blanton show and the photo exhibit “March to Freedom,” running February 21–April 12 at the LBJ Library, the library will host a panel discussion on the movement.
The exhibit demonstrates that artists have always mirrored the events and social upheavals of their eras—many, indeed, would tell you it’s their obligation to do so. In the end, you might be left wondering what kinds of exhibits museums in the future will stage to showcase the artistic response to the equally traumatic events of our own time. Through May 10 at the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 512-471-7324