chicago

View of “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” 2015. Clockwise, from left: Nari Ward, We the People, 2011; Renée Green, Space Poem #3 (Media Bicho), 2012; Sanford Biggers, Ghetto Bird Tunic, 2006; Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), 2006/2015. Photo: Nathan Keay.

“The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now”

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA Chicago)

View of “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” 2015. Clockwise, from left: Nari Ward, We the People, 2011; Renée Green, Space Poem #3 (Media Bicho), 2012; Sanford Biggers, Ghetto Bird Tunic, 2006; Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), 2006/2015. Photo: Nathan Keay.

AT THE THRESHOLD of this exhibition is Glenn Ligon’s Give Us a Poem, 2007, positioned immediately adjacent to the show title that spans the entirety of the gallery’s outer wall. Ligon’s neon wall work quotes Muhammad Ali’s response to a 1975 Harvard audience’s request for a poem. Ali’s succinct answer—“Me / We!”—is illuminated in an alternating pattern, the two words stacked one atop the other. Ligon’s use of reflexive symmetry plays on the collectivity called for by Ali to amplify a central question of “The Freedom Principle”: How does contemporary art revisit black cultural nationalisms of the 1960s in ways both critical and affirmative?

That is to say: What was—or is—the Black Arts Movement? This expansive exhibition places two seminal and interrelated Chicago groups founded during the ’60s—the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)

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