A temporary freedom

On August 15, 1967, poet Gwendolyn Brooks presented a dedication at the large Picasso sculpture’s unveiling in Daley Plaza. “Art hurts, art urges voyages,” she read. Through October 4 those words are printed on the wall of the DOVA Temporary Gallery in Harper Court—next to vibrant screen prints, photographs, newspaper articles, campus flyers, comic books, and underground pamphlets—collected by U of C art history professor Rebecca Zorach and her students as an addendum to a winter-quarter course, to give gallery visitors a sense of Chicago’s artistic landscape in the late Sixties.

The year following the Picasso dedication would be a tumultuous one, especially for Chicago. Forty years later, Zorach taught a course called Chicago 1968 about the cultural and political upheaval of that time and the art that it produced. Aware that some of her students wanted to go further with the complicated material, Zorach offered them the opportunity to help design and curate an exhibit based on the class.

For the resulting exhibition, Looks Like Freedom, Zorach and the undergraduate students selected works that were meaningful, she said, both in “the broader landscapes of Chicago” and on the South Side. One room is devoted to flyers collected by the U of C administration (and thus preserved in Special Collections) on campus in the late Sixties and early Seventies—advertising everything from women’s and worker’s rights to Black Panther recruitment.

Many of the prints are on loan from the South Shore Cultural Center and have been framed for the first time here. Bright screen prints by artists in AfriCOBRA (Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists) urge African Americans to join together and assess themselves as a community. Text in the works, such as ”Unite!” and “Relate to your heritage” (the pieces bear the same titles as their messages) asks the viewer to contemplate the underlying messages. Freedom and self-consciousness pervade all of the art, from the African American heroes on the Wall of Respect, a mural at 43rd and Langley, to the flyers that urge student action. As one essay from the underground newspaper The Chicago Seed reads, “We have only to recognize that we are free.”

Rose Schapiro, '09

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Photos (left to right): A collection of work by The Hairy Who, exhibited at Hyde Park Art Center in 1968; a poster by Barbara Jones-Hogu, a member of AfricCOBRA; the Gwendolyn Brooks inscription that opens the exhibit; A view of flyers and posters in DOVA Temporary Gallery.

August 29, 2008