I first saw Gary Simmons’s work in the magnificent lobby of CAAM last year. The mural titled, Fade to Black is an homage to classic silent films that featured all-black casts. These films were necessary representations that were created to counter the racist depictions of African-Americans in propaganda films like Birth of a Nation. The mural resembles a blackboard with text in chalk, a process that harkens back to the artist’s earlier work that utilized the same medium and technique. Simmons’ process has since evolved to apply the same technique with paint on large-scale canvases and murals.
Last year Simmons also had an exhibition at Regen Projects featuring more large-scale paintings and an installation that included a staircase that harkened back to Jim Crow-era segregation when theatres would only allow black patrons to sit in balconies.
For more on Gary Simmons’ mural at CAAM, check out this video featuring the artist and CAAM’s Deputy Director, Naima Keith.
Fade to Black is currently on view at CAAM through July 31, 2018.