At the press preview for Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, curator Tim Burgard didn’t have to plea a case for San Francisco being the fifth venue of this traveling show that covers work from the early 60s to the early 80s. Forty-two pieces have been added, half from Bay Area artists, and they mightily bolster the strength of this exhibition, which is beautiful, substantial and inspiriting. In his remarks, Burgard recognized that, “These artists are the civil rights leaders who climbed mountains and made monuments,” who referenced, “the highest ideals and harshest realities.”

The exhibition starts with the Spiral Group, a collective of black artists who mobilized after the summer March on Washington – “What can we do and how can we do it?” to make a joint statement about strength and solidarity. In a concerted show of unity, whether abstraction, figuration, or photography, the works are all black and white. Moving through the show, the art is grouped thematically, often reflecting geographical genesis, like assemblage from Los Angeles and art in the streets from the Bay Area’s Black Panther movement. Elizabeth Catlett actually witnessed the raised fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Her two-sided wood sculpture of giant fist and half-opened eyes thunders with the power of art to educate and activate.

Throughout the run of the show, Juxtapoz will update our audience on events taking place at the de Young Museum that celebrate and enlarge Soul of a Nation through March 8, 2020. Tomorrow, Saturday, November 9th, is a FREE block party at the museum, with not only free admission, but DJs, activities and more. Be on the lookout for our feature on Soul of a Nation in the upcoming Winter issue.

Jae Jarrell, at the preview with her husband Wadsworth Jarrell, spoke of the joy of being in the collective AfricCOBRA. “We tried to make straight what is most crooked, we wanted to see what we could do to bring uplift.”

Soul of a Nation will be on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, 9:30am to 5:15 Tuesday through Sunday.