DIA Finds "Art Of Rebellion" In Wake Of 1967 Uprising

Jul 29, 2017

Head to the Detroit Institute of Arts for their artistic take on 50 years after the 1967 Uprising in Detroit.


It’s called Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement and the Detroit Institute of Arts opened it to coincide with 50 years since the 1967 uprising which rocked Detroit.

"It's a different show for us." Says Valerie Mercer, head of the General Motors Center for African American Art at the DIA. "I hope we'll do more, because I think even for mainstream museums, I do think they often shy away from political, social, and racial issues." As for why Mercer thinks that may be the case, "I think that's been a history in American art museums for a long time. I think it causes some people a lot of discomfort, but it's just so important. And when you think of it, I mean, a lot of the great painters we all admire, American and European. For example, [Spanish painter Francisco] Goya, he didn't like what was going on with his country during his lifetime and he did some of the most powerful political works. Some of this is powerful in dealing with racial confrontations. But it's also all done very stylishly because these are all well-trained artists. And that was a real challenge for a number of them, like some of the earlier generations being modernists."

And I suppose one of the best ways to explore the DIA’’s exhibit Art of Rebellion is to speak with one of its artists: Mario Moore.

"It is a painting of my grandmother." says Moore about his entry in the DIA's Art of Rebellion. "The painting is a painting on copper. So, it's oil on copper and it's basically a painting of a series of paintings that I did about mothers and sons. Essentially it's a black mother holding images of her living songs. 'Cause to contrast what we usually see in the media after the killing of black men and black boys are the mourning mothers. And what I see in my family, often, is usually like really strong black women, powerful women. And that's what you see in the painting. It's basically this living mother and a sense of protection, holding images of her living sons."

But a copper canvas for his painting is a curious one, which Moore has a number of reasons for choosing. "Well, I actually really like a lot of Dutch paintings on copper from the 16th-17th century. A lot of people don't know that some of those old paintings were done on copper, 'cause they usually have a ground on the top of them. But what I learned in grad school is that you can actually paint directly on the copper surface by just de-greasing it. But another reason is that usually one of the first items that are stolen out of the houses are copper. So it's something that you see in urban environments, like, initially the abandoned buildings are stripped of the copper first and foremost. And it also gives a reflection. Right, so whoever's looking at the painting kinda implements them into the painting. It shows themselves, right? In the sense of something else that's happening outside of themselves."

Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement is on display now through October 22nd at the Detroit Institute of Arts.