5 Forgotten Art Pieces and Films That Shined a Light on Racial Discrimination
Uncover these 5 political art pieces and films
During the summer, filmmaker Ava DuVernay was nominated for 16 Emmy awards for her groundbreaking Netflix series When They See Us.
The series tells the true story of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case, which involved five teens who were wrongfully accused and convicted of a heinous attack that happened in Central Park. The teens later became known as the Central Park Five.
In the wake of DuVernay's groundbreaking success, I begin to think about all the obscure films and art that shined a light on the issues of police brutality and racial profiling. I thought about how their important message went unnoticed or forgotten over time.
Here is my list of five forgotten art pieces and films that shined a light on racial discrimination.
Painted in 1983 by Jean Michel Basquiat, Defacement depicts the death of Michael Stewart at the hands of the New York City transit police. At the time of his death, Stewart was an aspiring artist and model who idolized Basquiat. According to close friends, the two even shared some similarities.
In the wake of Stewart’s death, Basquiat felt propelled to paint Defacement in his memory to bring awareness to the injustices of police brutality.
This powerful art piece was widely forgotten among Basquiat's paintings. The painting is an eerie depiction of a ghostly, black silhouette that represents Michael Stewart, surrounded by two armed policemen.
2. Fruitvale Station
Fruitvale Station is about the tragic death of Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot by Oakland, California Police Officer Johannes Mehserle. The film depicts his final hours and the events leading up to his death on the fatal night of January 1, 2009.
After the film's release, director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan (who portrayed grant in the film) received no Oscar nominations. The film instead was not only overlooked, but snubbed.
Detroit, Michigan based artist Nick Cave has often garnered praise for his distinctive, whimsical Soundsuits. The sound suits that Cave creates often contain a profound message behind the idea of racial profiling and identity. According to an article from Artnet, TM13, for example, is a compelling work of art that contains a timely message.
TM13 is a Soundsuit created in 2015 by Cave in memory of Trayvon Martin an unarmed Florida teenager who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012. The TM13 Soundsuit stands in the form of a black man who is wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
The figure is also surrounded by childlike items while covered in a colorful beaded net. Although this significant art piece may have gained some recognition within the art world, it is still highly underrated.
4. The Hate U Give
Based on the best selling novel by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter, who attends a predominantly white private school. Starr's life changes forever when she witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her close friend. Devastated by the event, Starr seeks justice by going on a strike for change to stop police brutality.
Upon the release of the film, critics praised its profound message and called it one of the best movies of the year. For some reason, the film failed to reach its full potential. Many were even baffled when the film received no nominations from the Academy Awards.
5. The Back of The Neck
Painted in December of 1983, The Back of the Neck is another obscure art piece by Jean Michel Basquiat. The artist's obsession with anatomy in this art piece is evident. The painting features outlines of three body parts: a twisted arm, a spine and the back of someone's neck.
According to art curator Chaedria LaBouvier, The Back of The Neck echos the same message Basquiat was trying to convey with Defacement.
During a presentation for William's college, LaBouvier explained the connection between Defacement and The Back of The Neck. Labouvier states, "The aspects of anatomy that Jean Michel is looking at correlates with Michael Stewart's injuries"(referring to the neck and spine damage Stewart sustained).
An exhibit called Defacement: The Untold Story is being held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York until November 6, 2019. The Back of The Neck, along with the Defacement painting, are featured in this exhibit. Please check it out if you are in New York.
Thank you, everyone, for reading this blog post. Please contact me if you have any suggestions about other obscure art pieces and films that I did not feature. Here is my Instagram handle @zarilove9619.