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Shanae Rowland, by Sheila Pree Bright (2007), chromogenic print (from the Collection of Doug McCraw).

The Boca Raton Museum of Art Celebrates Juneteenth 2024 with Iconic Photographs from the Doug McCraw Collection

The Boca Raton Museum of Art presents “Myths, Secrets, Lies, and Truths: Photography from the Doug McCraw Collection” on view from June 12th through October 13th, 2024. The exhibition of 100+ works from the Doug McCraw Collection is an original presentation by the Boca Raton Museum of Art, curated by Kathleen Goncharov, the Museum’s Senior Curator. These artists capture moments that transcend the boundaries of insight.

Doug McCraw is the co-founder of one of South Florida’s cultural gems: the FATVillage Arts District which is McCraw’s project that promotes creativity, artist residences, exhibitions, research, and education. McCraw loaned these 100+ works from his collection to the Boca Raton Museum, for this new exhibition.

Works by Sheila Pree Bright: From her series “Young Americans”

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Sheila Pree Bright presents works from her Young Americans series, in which she invited young people, of all backgrounds and in cities across the country, to pose with the flag in ways that felt comfortable (while recording their personal stories of what the flag means to each of them).

Bright wanted this series to focus on diverse young Americans who are new to the voting system, and who are still exploring ideas of what it means to be American. In some ways, this series by Bright may be the most timely of the exhibition, due to the impending elections and the pivotal youth vote.

Bright has appeared in the 2016 feature-length documentary film “Election Day: Lens Across America.” The artist encouraged her subjects to use their own clothing, props, and poses to “give them a platform to speak for themselves.”

Bright is often described as a “cultural anthropologist.” She especially wanted to examine the attitudes and values of Millennials/Generation Y, (people born in the 1980s through the late 1990s, most often the children of Baby Boomers).

The photographs in this series respond to negative portrayals of Millennials in our culture. Museumgoers will hear audio recordings alongside each photo, recordings of her subjects expressing their personal feelings toward the flag.

Works by Spider Martin:

Spider Martin was an acclaimed newspaper photojournalist known for his iconic photographs taken during the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Martin’s historic images from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March documented protests by African Americans demanding the right to vote.

While working as a young new photojournalist at The Birmingham News, Martin captured the historic photo Two Minute Warning (pictured below), showing state troopers about to attack peaceful marchers with batons and tear gas, after the marchers crossed Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma into Dallas County. The incident was pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement and is known as Bloody Sunday.

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Two Minute Warning Sequence Frame 1, by Spider Martin (Archival digital print on exhibition fiber paper), 1965 (Collection of Doug McCraw).

Three of Martin’s photographs from that day in 1965 were enlarged to serve as the centerpiece for this exhibition, providing a powerful large-scale emphasis that expresses the drama of this critical moment in history.

They are part of a series of photographs titled Selma Is Now. Martin’s collection contains thousands of photographs, clippings, and other notes — much of it previously unpublished before it was acquired by the University of Texas. The producers of the movie Selma used Martin’s photographs to recreate scenes for the film.

From the Spider Martin website ‒ Often the target of violence himself, Spider stayed on the scene of these Civil Rights protests when he could have asked for relief from his newspaper editors. His bosses at The Birmingham News released Martin from his assignment after Bloody Sunday, hoping it would all go away if they stopped publishing his photos. But Martin won his argument to stay on, and his camera covered these activities day by day, event by event.

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Spider Martin – The Prayer

Because of his continual presence in and around Selma, Martin and his camera became easily identifiable targets, despised by racists and public officials whose acts of violence and intimidation were suddenly being exposed.

Martin faced beatings and death threats to capture through his lens the most iconic images of a movement that changed a region and a nation. He fought back with his camera, and with photographs that didn’t lie. They appeared in national and international publications and were seen around the world.

Dr. King credited his photos with playing a major role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. stating in his quote below:

“Spider, we could have marched, we could have protested forever, but if it weren’t for guys like you, it would have been for nothing. The whole world saw your pictures. That’s why the Voting Rights Act passed.” — Quote by Martin Luther King, 1965

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Brother in Arms, by Spider Martin (Archival digital print on exhibition fiber paper), 1965 (Collection of Doug McCraw).

Works by Hank Willis Thomas: In his series “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America”

Hank Willis Thomas is known for exploring American consumer culture, and the history of how corporate imagery in advertising campaigns showed a lack of respect towards African Americans through the years via print advertisements.

His series investigates the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which this influential imagery reinforces ideas about race and race relations. Most of the works in this exhibition are from his series titled Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America.

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Slack Power, by Hank Willis Thomas (Lightjet print). Original ad photo from 1969; re-conceptualized by Thomas in 2006 (from the Collection of Doug McCraw).

The series explores fifty years of ads that targeted a Black audience or featured Black subjects. Ads starting in 1968 (the year of social and political protest and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.), through 2008 (the year when the first African American president was elected).

When looking at these works, the viewer quickly experiences a mind-twist when realizing that Thomas did not take these photos. Instead, he appropriated the images from outdated magazine pages and removed all of the wording, product names, slogans, and logos from each ad, keeping only the original photos. This makes the images stand out even more.

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Now there’s a doll that can make a real difference in her life: Shani, the first Black Barbie, by Hank Willis Thomas (Lightjet print). Original ad photo from 1991; this ad photo was re-conceptualized by Thomas in 2007 (from the Collection of Doug McCraw).

The result is a re-imagined version of each original ad, showing how white ad executives at the time got away with creating these depictions for marketing campaigns.

Writing in The Guardian, the art critic Arwa Mahdawi stated: “Thomas’s work ‘unbrands’ advertising: stripping away the commercial context, and leaving the exposed image to speak for itself.”

Thomas then pairs a befitting title for each re-imagined work, further underscoring how disrespect, stereotypes ‒ and, in some cases, outright racism ‒ were prevalent in advertising aimed at Black Americans.

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Celebrate your Specialness, by Hank Willis Thomas (Lightjet print). Original ad photo from 1997; this ad photo was re-conceptualized by Thomas in 2008 (from the Collection of Doug McCraw).

Some of his apt titles include: “Slack Power, 1969/2006,” “Now there’s a doll that can make a real difference in her life: Shani, the first black Barbie, 1991/2007,” “Celebrate your Specialness, 1997/2008,” and “The Mandingo of Sandwiches, 1977/2007.”

The two years in each title represent first the year of the original ad, followed by the year that Thomas re-conceptualized each image.

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The Mandingo of Sandwiches, by Hank Willis Thomas (Lightjet print). Original ad photo from 1977; this ad photo was re-conceptualized by Thomas in 2007 (from the Collection of Doug McCraw).

Hank Willis Thomas

Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) is a conceptual artist based in Brooklyn whose work focuses on identity and popular culture. He was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a Museum Studies student. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies in 1986 and was awarded honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.

Thomas’ work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography, NYC; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musee du qua Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre; and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands, among others.

Thomas is included in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); Brooklyn Museum; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the National Museum of Art, Washington, D.C. among others. Awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AGO Photography Prize (2017), and the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017). Thomas is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

James “Spider” Martin

James “Spider” Martin (1939-2003) was an American photojournalist best known for his documentation of the American Civil Rights Movements, in particular, 1965’s Selma to Montgomery marches. He was born in Fairfield, Alabama. At 5’2″, he was nicknamed “spider” as he would climb trees and church towers to obtain optimal angles for his photographs.

Martin’s photographs were published in major national and international publications, including Life Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Time Magazine, Der Spiegel, Paris Match, and more. His photographs are in many permanent collections including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the National Museum of American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Art in Austin, TX.

Sheila Pree Bright

Sheila Pree Bright (b. 1967) is an Atlanta-based, award-winning photographer known for portraying large-scale works that combine a wide-range knowledge of contemporary culture. She received a BS from the University of Missouri in 1998. She moved to Atlanta in 1998 and received an MFA from Georgia State University in 2003.

She created a “clean room” in the museum – an enclosed, transparent box with two holes equipped with gloves used by the viewer to flip through a blank journal that visually transforms into a magic book and then into a spy craft technical manual before one’s very eyes.

In 2006, Bright was awarded the Center Prize at the Santa Fe Center of Photography and had her first solo show at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in 2008 which featured the series Young Americans.

Her work has also been shown at The Wadsworth Atheneum of Art, in Hartford, CT, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Cleveland, OH. Bright’s work is included in the collections of National Museum of African American History, Washington, D.C.; The BET Collection, NYC; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; de Saisset Museum, Santa Clare University, Santa Clare, CA; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland KS; The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; The Paul Jones Collection, Birmingham AL; and Spellman Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, among others.

Boca Raton Museum of Art

Boca Raton Museum of Art
The Boca Raton Museum of Art – (photo by Robin Hill).

Founded by artists, the Boca Raton Museum of Art was established in 1950 as the Art Guild of Boca Raton. The organization has grown, now in its eighth decade, to encompass a Museum, Art School, and Sculpture Garden. As one of South Florida’s leading cultural landmarks, the Museum provides educational programs and a robust exhibition schedule to the community, and to visitors from around the world. The Boca Raton Museum of Art is located at 501 Plaza Real in Mizner Park, a shopping, dining, entertainment, residential, and arts district in downtown Boca Raton.

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