Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art
901 S College Street
Auburn, AL 36801
P: 334.844.1484
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Date: January 23rd - July 7th, 2024

During the Civil Rights Era, increasing demand by Black Americans for social and political equality ignited long-simmering racial tensions, with particular ferocity in Alabama. Demonstrators of all ages put their bodies and livelihoods on the line to protest oppressive Jim Crow laws in Montgomery, Birmingham and elsewhere in the state. Also known as “Black Codes,” these laws enforced racial segregation and governed Black life. However, as this exhibition argues, other types of Black Codes emerged throughout the 20th century—not to control but as expressions of creative liberation and modes of resistance.

Black Codes: Art and Post-Civil Rights Alabama examines the lives and art of Thornton Dial (1928 – 2016), Lonnie Holley (b. 1950), Ronald Lockett (1965 – 1998) and Joe Minter (b. 1943). Directly or indirectly impacted by Jim Crow rule, these men made works that are not simply illustrations of history but that are also hidden transcripts, visions of alternative futures and radical archives of Black determination. The exhibition’s three thematic sections consider how each artist addresses personal, local and global histories.

Black Codes challenges long-held assumptions about what constitutes a cultural or artistic capital in the United States. Often overlooked in art historical literature and museum settings, the artistic production of Alabama—especially that of Black Americans—helps tell vital, complex narratives about the past, present and future.

This exhibition is organized by guest curator Dr. Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, the Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Co-director of the Asian American Art Initiative at the Cantor Arts Center Stanford University.

About the guest curator:

Dr. Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander is the Halperin Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Co-Director of the Asian American Art Initiative at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University.

She has curated several exhibitions there, including East of the Pacific: Making Histories of Asian American Art (2022) and The Faces of Ruth Asawa. She has received awards and fellowships from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, and the American Craft Council.