One of the most influential organizations of the 1960s and 70s, the Black Panther Party has been fighting for social justice in the U.S. and abroad for over half a century on behalf of marginalized people, everywhere. The controversial group took care of their communities with everything from free food programs, to community newspapers, to clinics and neighborhood patrols to prevent police brutality.
2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the Party’s formation, and major tributes from all over the world were paid to the organization—chief among them Beyonce’s performance at the SuperBowl.
SEPIA Collective, an African-American, female-run art collective, began their own tribute as well, with the first of four art shows to devoted to the Black Panthers and their enduring legacy. Kicking off in Oakland in October 2016, ICONIC: Black Panther brought together world-famous artists from across the globe to honor the organization’s fight for justice, and continuing struggles of Black Americans.
This show allows different perspectives to interpret the impact of the Black Panthers in their own particular way.
On April 8, the Los Angeles edition of ICONIC: Black Panther opened at Gregorio Escalante Gallery in Los Angeles, featuring work by Emory Douglas, Shepard Fairey, Robbie Conal, Pilar Aguero-Esparza, Aise Bourne, Justin Dixon, Mark Steven Greenfield, F. Scott Hess, Dr. Samella Lewis, Ali Al Sharji, Mohammed Mubarak, Tslil Tsemet, Lexx Valdez, and over two dozen more.
Photos by Salihah Barnett
“The beauty of this show is that it allows different perspectives to interpret the impact of the Black Panthers in their own particular way,” says co-curator Susu Attar. “It brings together people who believe in social justice even if it is not directly affecting them.”
I have found tremendous creative inspiration in the iconography of the Black Panther Party.
“Without their iconic style and imagery, ranging from the Panther logo, to the uniform of turtleneck, beret, and leather jacket, to the graphic images of Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party may not have captured the interest and imaginations of people around the world who were inspired to take a closer look at the issues and philosophies the party represented,” says participating artist Shepard Fairey. “I have found tremendous creative inspiration in the iconography of the Black Panther Party.”
The ICONIC: Black Panther group art exhibit opened in Los Angeles on April 8, 2017 at Gregorio Escalante Gallery, in Los Angeles. The exhibit is on view until May 14. Later this year, ICONIC will move on for exhibits in Chicago and New York. [We hope Austin is added to the list.]