From May 1 to May 10 of this year, an old, abandoned theater in Baldwin Hills was turned into a giant gallery with over 200 works of art by over 150 artists for a pop-up art exhibit called Manifest Justice.
The large-scale exhibit featured art that spoke to social justice issues; everything from gender wage inequality to mass incarceration, but—with the people of Baltimore still out in the streets protesting the death of Freddie Gray—works of art that dealt with police brutality and police murder seemed to speak to people the most.
There was an installation piece by Artist Ti-Rock Moore called, “Protect and Serve,” that consisted of a neon sign of the words, Choke Hold, but with the letter O being substituted by a noose; there is no mistaking the connection the artist was making to how Black people were treated by the KKK, in the days after the end of the Civil War, and the way they are treated by the police today.
“Dis Arm,” an image of a police baton on fire, by well-known Street Artist Robbie Conal, seemed to be there to remind us that the anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Rebellion had just passed.
Other pieces even seemed to speak about the future. For instance, a painting by Graffiti Artist Mear One, of a youth wearing a gas mask and kaffeiyah, holding a large shield with the words, “Fight For Humanity,” spray-painted on it.
Another piece, “American Dreamers (Phase 2),” a large installation of a gutted police car in the middle of the floor, couldn’t help but stand out to most people.
Looking at this piece, (which was made to look like an NYPD car on one side, and a Ferguson police car on the other side), one could imagine a future society where this art piece was actually a relic of a horrible, long-forgotten past.
The car had many plants, a sort of garden, growing from inside it. And, in an interview with a local TV station, the creator of the piece, Jordan Weber said, “It’s a symbol of young black Americans who have not come to fruition before being taken.”
It is very significant that many artists are being brought together to display these kinds of art pieces to large crowds; art that makes people confront the reality, injustice and horror going on right now.
At this time, there are no plans to take the Manifest Justice exhibit to other cities, but you can see photos of most of the pieces mentioned here, (and many more), at www.manifestjustice.org/artists