UMCA Exhibition Looks at Du Bois through Prism of Art and Scholarship

The legacy of the late civil rights leader, writer and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois is featured in a landmark exhibition that opened this week at the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA).

“Du Bois in Our Time” focuses on the intersection of art and the major issues of our time, centered on the legacy of Du Bois and the causes he championed. UMCA has commissioned 10 internationally acclaimed American, Canadian and West African artists, whose work is socially engaged and research-based, to offer an aesthetic contribution to a modern rethinking of Du Bois.

Participating artists are Radcliffe Bailey, Mary Evans, Brendan Fernandes, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Julie Mehretu, Ann Messner, Jefferson Pinder, Tim Rollins & KOS, Mickalene Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems. These artists, who work in a variety of mediums and are at different stages in their careers, will investigate Du Bois’ influence today using the vast campus-based W.E.B. Du Bois Archives for their research, along with the collaboration of five Du Bois scholars: James T. Campbell, Stanford University; David Glassberg, history department; Saidiya V. Hartman, Columbia University; Reiland Rabaka, University of Colorado; and William Strickland, Afro-American studies. The scholars will collaborate with the artists to support the artistic process through the generation of ideas, themes, and directions. The specially commissioned works of art for the exhibitions will have been created via a process where committed research, access to the online Du Bois Archive, along with collaboration and correspondence with Du Bois scholars inform an innovative approach to artistic expression.

A comprehensive schedule of educational events throughout the fall will be open to the public free of charge, including an international symposium on Sept. 28; a screening of the film that documents the project, produced by The American History Workshop Brooklyn; along with lectures, panel discussions, and gallery talks with scholars and artists.

The Nubuke Foundation and the Du Bois Centre, both in Accra, Ghana, will offer a distinct but related exhibition, “Du Bois in Our Time/Accra,” premiering in March 2014.