Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. looks at the ways in which visual art has long provided its own protest, commentary, escape and perspective for African Americans.
About the Exhibition
Smithsonian Hi is a digital museum guide experience that allows visitors to engage with museum objects using their personal mobile devices. The Hi experience combines innovative image recognition software with an easy-to-use web-browser interface that requires no plugins or downloads. Visitors can use Hi to learn more about objects on view in the Museum's galleries and stories that connect them through video, audio, image and text features; including curator and artist interviews, related objects from the collection and links to online educational resources. Visitors can also use Hi to share favorite objects on social media, bringing the conversation beyond the physical museum.
Go to hi.si.edu from your mobile device while visiting the Visual Arts Gallery to begin your experience!
Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. tells stories of injustice, resistance and courage. Use this Family Guide to introduce these complex ideas and facilitate conversations in developmentally appropriate and meaningful ways for children through questions and activities connected to featured artworks.Note: To best honor children’s developmental and emotional needs, we’ve provided a preview of the sensitive and graphic imagery and audio in the exhibit
Reckoning is a testament to how artists and photographers have used their voice to pay tribute to those we have lost, lifting up names such as Eric Garner, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at demonstrations and in communities online. The show journeys from defiance to resilience to grief and mourning, hope and change.
The exhibition seeks to forge connections between the Black Lives Matter protests, racial violence, grief and mourning, hope and change.Tuliza Fleming NMAAHC’s interim chief curator of visual arts.
African Americans have faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their pursuit of political and social equity and equality. Despite the difficulties, they have never given up in their quest for a fair and just world. The works of these artists not only speak to a particular event, a movement, or a theme, they also speak to us—the viewer—as a call to action and a catalyst for change.
From the bravery of Harriet Tubman, who guided numerous enslaved men, women and children to freedom in the North, to Breonna Taylor, whose tragic death inspired thousands to stand up for justice deferred, Black women have fought to be heard and recognized. As rendered by African American artists, the women in this gallery represent well-known activists, in addition to representations of those who quietly pushed for equity in our complex world across the centuries-long freedom struggle.
The history of racial violence in our nation is one of tragedy and resilience. Not just witnesses to such violence, African American artists have created artworks that give voice to the voiceless and reveal the ever-present threats to Black life. The works in this gallery document decades of injustice, from Rodney King, whose beating (captured on video) began to change the world’s perception of police brutality, to Eric Garner whose last words prior to his death were, “I can’t breathe.”
Amy Sherald is best known for her portraits of African Americans, notable for her use of grayscale to paint skin tones as a way of challenging the concept of color as race, including in her noted portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
In 2020, after police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in a botched raid, Vanity Fair magazine commissioned Sherald to paint a portrait of Taylor for the September issue, guest-edited by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Before what would become her first posthumous portrait, Sherald spent time speaking with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and learned of Taylor’s interest in fashion. As a result, Sherald commissioned a Black female designer to create the dress for the portrait. Sherald also placed an engagement ring on Taylor’s finger to represent the love between Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker, who was with her at the time of her killing. Although Taylor’s untimely death prevented Walker from proposing, Sherald incorporated the ring to give him solace and to suggest a brighter future that art could invoke.
Sherald wanted the portrait to remain in the public sphere, saying, “I felt like it should live out in the world.” It is now co-owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, Taylor’s hometown.
I don’t think I thought about the viewer so much as I thought about her family when I was making this portrait . . . but when you’re speaking about violence against women and police brutality, she’s become a face for that movement.Amy Sherald
A Closer Look
Megan Thee Stallion - Savage Remix [SNL Live Performance]
Move On Up A Little Higher, Pts. 1 & 2 Mahalia Jackson 1947
Bisa Butler Signature style video
Reckoning draws from a number of existing exhibitions already on display at the National Museum of Afrcian American History & Culture.
Making a Way Out of No Way
Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men, as women, black or white, or Hispanic.LeBron James