John Akomfrah in 'Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America' at AAMP and the PAFA, Philadelphia, PA, USA
24 March 2023
For this major group exhibition, two historic museums – the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts – come together for 'Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America', an exhibition of new works examining the provocative and timely question: “Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy?”
Installations by 20 celebrated artists explore themes of equality, free speech, and other tenets of democracy. In a time when perspectives in the U.S. are radically disparate, we invite you to explore how art inspires us to reflect on, challenge, and expand our own lived experiences.
Featuring footage filmed during 2020, responding directly to that year's Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations against imperialist monuments, John Akomfrah's Triptych (2020) is an homage to the centrepiece track on the radical, political album, ‘We Insist!’ (1960) by the jazz musician Max Roach – the ideas of which prefigured the themes that became the Civil Rights and anti-apartheid movements. Triptych, like the track, is sectioned into three parts: Prayer, Protest and Peace. The catalyst for the film were the broadcasted portraits of figures such as Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the evident incongruity between the beguiling ordinariness of the images that represented them with the violent end we know they endured. Through a rare focus on portraiture, Akomfrah expresses the diversity of Black characters, characteristics and characterisations that should form the bedrock of any de-colonial or anti-racist future.
'Rising Sun' runs from 23 March – 8 October.
Image: Installation view of John Akomfrah, Triptych (2020) in 'Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America' at the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 23 March – 8 October 2023 © John Akomfrah, courtesy the African American Museum in Philadelphia. Photography by Constance Mensh for African American Museum in Philadelphia.