Emory Douglas: The Epic Art of the Black Panthers

Here is the new video short produced and directed by Dress Code, Emory Douglas: The Art of the Black Panthers; produced by Tara Rose Stromberg; cinematography by Andre Andreev; editing and color by Mike Cook. As they write on their Vimeo page:

Emory Douglas was the Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. Through archival footage and conversations with Emory we share his story, alongside the rise and fall of the Panthers. He used his art as a weapon in the Black Panther Party’s struggle for civil rights and today Emory continues to give a voice to the voiceless. His art and what The Panthers fought for are still as relevant as ever.

As I have written elsewhere on this blog: 

In the mid 1960s Emory Douglas was making props for Black Communications Project in the Bay Area—a theater collective that included the poet Amiri Baraka. Douglas produced a series of “flats” that could be easily moved and changed between acts or plays, developing what Baraka would describe as an “expressionist agit-prop.” In 1967 Douglas joined the nascent Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BBP), eventually becoming its Minister of Culture, and devoting his artistic skills, for the next decade, to the party. Douglas would design or supervise much of the art in The Black Panther (the BPP’s newspaper) and would introduce a weekly poster to be printed along with the newspaper. These images tended to fuse hand-made drawings, often with heavy black lines reminiscent of some African designs, caricatures that recalled George Grosz, along with Constructivist and John Heartfield-like photo-collages. This combination of mechanically reproduced images with subjective hand-made expressionism mimicked the distancing techniques of Epic Theater. The stories Douglas told were the heroic BPP battles with racism, war, capitalism and the police, as well as the stories of “regular” African Americans’ everyday lives. There was both collective struggle and subjective personality—whether it was that of Douglas, a single mother, the grotesque subjectivity of the “pigs.”
Douglas did not merely aim to make propaganda (although he made excellent propaganda). He (along with the BPP) aimed to construct a counter-mythology, to “fuse everyday Black life with a revolutionary spirit.” ...

With the passage of time, the older work of Douglas has taken on an ephemeral and gothic character. The newspapers and posters have become, in part, indexical records of the political performance of the BPP, a second layer of auric distancing. The recuperation of Douglas by the art world has given him the chance to preserve the memory of the BPP in a new arena, and his past work has often been presented (rightly) in a theatrical manner. The inclusion of Douglas in the art space is an opportunity—not just for Douglas (although this recognition is well deserved), but an opportunity to change the nature of the art space itself.

The Life and Times of Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture in the Black Panther Party

A three part interview with Emory Douglas by Marc Steiner at Real News Now (2014)

Emory Douglas: Artist Studio Visit

Interview with Emory Douglas in San Francisco (2008)


Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution

Video of the first Emory Douglas exhibit in the UK (2009)

"Evicted Art Blog" is Red Wedge editor Adam Turl's investigation of potential strategies for contemporary anti-capitalist studio art.