SADIE BARNETTE'S DEAR 1968,… EXPLORES THE FRAUGHT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL
HAVERFORD, Pa.—In 1968, the FBI put Sadie Barnette's father, Rodney, on a watch list. Because the Vietnam War veteran co-founded the Compton, Calif., chapter of the Black Panther Party, his life was surveilled and chronicled for years, leading to the creation of what became a whopping 500-page dossier. Years later, his artist daughter obtained that FBI file via a Freedom of Information Act request and is now reframing it—and her father's story—as the centerpiece of Dear 1968,… which will run in Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery from Sept. 8 through Oct. 13.
In Dear 1968,… Sadie Barnette mines personal and political histories using family photographs, recent drawings, and selections from her dad's FBI file. This immersive reimagining of the family album, which was first shown at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis, demonstrates that Barnette’s family story is not theirs alone. Examining the fraught relationship between the personal and the political, the everyday and the otherworldly, the past and the present, she reveals that the injustices of 1968 have not yet been relegated to the pages of history, but live on in new forms today.
For its run on the Haverford campus, Dear 1968,… will include a new work, "Untitled (Citizen's Commission)," specifically inspired by the famous 1971 break-in of the nearby Media, Pa., FBI office. That incident not only made the secret case histories of thousands of Americans public, but also was an important first step in exposing the Bureau's COINTELPRO operation, which used covert counter-intelligence activities to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" groups the FBI deemed subversive. One of the eight antiwar activists responsible for that break-in was the late Haverford Professor of Physics and of Mathematics William Davidon.
"For this exhibition, I created a drawing that imagined a logo for the name the eight 'burglars' gave themselves—the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI," said Barnette. "By giving themselves this official title, they imagined a world where the government is accountable to the people. They broke in because they rightly suspected that the FBI wasn’t simply gathering information, but was actively sabotaging their antiwar organizing. They weren’t fighting for privacy; they were fighting for the right to dissent."
Sadie Barnette lives and works in Oakland and Compton, Calif. She earned her B.F.A. from CalArts and her M.F.A from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, the Oakland Museum of California, and Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa. Named as one of the “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know” by the Huffington Post in 2013, Barnette has recently been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian UK, and Artforum, among other publications. Barnette is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles.
Dear 1968,… will be on view Sept. 8 through Oct. 13, at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. On Friday, Sept. 8, to celebrate the show's opening, there will be an artist’s talk at 4:30 p.m. followed by a reception at 5:30 p.m. The exhibit is in conjunction with the symposium "The Black Extra/ordinary," which will be held Oct. 6 and 7 at Haverford College and will explore the poles of black representation via historical archives, social media, fine arts, and other arenas. For further details: exhibits.haverford.edu/dear1968.
Dear 1968,… originated at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis and was curated by Francesca Wilmott, associate curator. Support for its presentation at Haverford College is provided by The John B. Hurford '60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.
Overseen by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and located in Whitehead Campus Center, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays until 8 p.m. For more information, contact Matthew Seamus Callinan, associate director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and campus exhibitions, at (610) 896-1287 or email@example.com, or visit the exhibitions program website: www.haverford.edu/exhibits.
Haverford College is located at 370 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, Pa., 19041