USA (Indiana University Purdue Indianapolis) Herron exhibition to explore Black creative responses to legacy of slavery

INDIANAPOLIS – The legacy of slavery will be the focus of a new exhibition at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI, which will explore present-day issues surrounding race, power and inequality.

Past Is Present: Black Artists Respond to the Complicated Histories of Slavery,” curated by Jonathan Michael Square, explores creative responses to the legacy of slavery locally, nationally and globally. The works – including prints, paintings, ceramics, mixed media installations, sculptures, textiles and digital projections – resist easy narratives about African American history and add dimension to popular perceptions of enslavement.

“‘Past Is Present’ is a play on William Faulkner’s famous quote: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past,’” said Square, a curator of Afro-diasporic art and historian of slavery who is the assistant professor of Black visual culture at Parsons School of Design. “The artists in this exhibition are deeply engaged in using their creative practices as a tool for liberation, raising important questions about slavery’s past and present, and imagining a way forward.”

The exhibition will also include 10 historical objects centered on the stories of enslaved people and their descendants from mid-19th- to early-20th-century Indiana. Those objects are on loan from the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Featured artists in the exhibition are Mason Archie, Kaila Austin, Torry Brown, Willie Cole, Matthew Cooper, Sonya Clark, Walter Lobyn Hamilton, John Wesley Hardrick, Alicia Henry, Samuel Levi Jones, Roberto Lugo, Marcus Morris, Nell Painter, Rae Parker, Carl Pope, Martin Puryear, Rebecca Robinson, Mary Sibande, Lorna Simpson, LaShawnda Crowe Storm, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, John Wilson and Shamira Wilson.

The exhibition will fill all the school’s galleries at Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St., opening Sept. 28 and running through Jan. 14.

“Past Is Present” is organized by the Herron Galleries in partnership with the IUPUI Center for Africana Studies and Culture, the IUPUI Multicultural Center and the IUPUI Senior Academy. The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation, a Central Indiana Community Foundation affiliate.

Painting of a man and a woman surrounded by shapes and designs.

Sun King Brewing provides in-kind support for Herron’s gallery events. The Great Frame Up provides complimentary parking. Hotel Indy makes accommodations for Herron’s visiting artists possible.

Related programming

The following events will occur on campus in Eskenazi Hall’s Basile Auditorium in conjunction with “Past Is Present.”

Visitor information

Herron’s exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Gallery hours during the fall semester are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Visit or call 317-278-9410 for more information on exhibitions, virtual tours, upcoming events and parking.