Barring Freedom

Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, Untitled (from the Redaction project). 2019.
Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, Untitled (from the Redaction project). 2019

UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) and San José Museum of Art, in collaboration with Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, are pleased to announce Barring Freedom. This multi-sited exhibition of contemporary art features the works of important U.S. artists engaging the criminal justice system.

Barring Freedom will be on view at San José Museum of Art October 23, 2020 through March 21, 2021 and at UC Santa Cruz Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery January 12-March 21, 2021. 

Barring Freedom brings together works by twenty of the most influential contemporary artists in the United States which challenge the dominant ways people see and understand the complex nexus of policing, surveillance, detention, and imprisonment that makes up the nation’s prison industrial complex. With more than two million incarcerated people, a majority of them black or brown, virtually all of them from poor communities, the prison industrial complex reveals a troubled vision at the heart of the United States. Barring Freedom considers the strategies artists use to reveal this unjust and racist worldview as well as the social problems it serves to obscure. And, it highlights the alternatives artists imagine to systemic injustices.

On October 20, 2020, Visualizing Abolition, a conversation between Angela Y. Davis and Gina Dent, will be the first of an online series of speaking events organized with Dr. Dent in conjunction with Barring Freedom.

While Barring Freedom was conceptualized before the current crises, first COVID-19, with its ongoing and unequal effects, and then the recent brutal onslaught of police killings of Black people in the United States have brought into sharp relief the horrific consequences of the structural racism in the nation. As the depths of the injustices come into focus, Barring Freedom reflects the teachings of noted prison abolitionist Angela Y. Davis (emphasis added):

“When we are told that we simply need better police and better prisons, we counter with what we really need…We need to be able to reimagine security, which will involve the abolition of policing and imprisonment as we know them…[and] reinvent entire worlds.”

It is with the urgency of the times that the exhibition underscores the importance of artists and creative practitioners in envisioning a world beyond racist policing, biased courts, and overflowing prisons. Dr. Davis has called for a “great feat of the imagination" to realize dreams of freedom and end the injustices of the carceral system. The artists in Barring Freedom respond to that call.

Barring Freedom is curated by Rachel Nelson and Alexandra Moore. 

Artists: American Artist; Sadie Barnette; Sanford Biggers; Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick; Sonya Clark; Sharon Daniel; Maria Gaspar, Ashley Hunt; Dee Hibbert-Jones; Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts; Deana Lawson; Sherrill Roland; Dread Scott; jackie sumell; Hank Willis Thomas; Patrice Renee Washington; Levester Williams. 

Barring Freedom and related programming has been generously funded by the Nion McEvoy Family Trust, Future Justice Fund, Wanda Kownacki, Peter Coha, James L. Gunderson, Rowland and Pat Rebele, Porter College, UCSC Foundation, and annual donors to the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Campus partners include: Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, The Humanities Institute, University Library, University Relations, Institute for Social Transformation, Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, Porter College, the Center for Cultural Studies, and the Center for Creative Ecologies.

PDF: Barring Freedom 

Friday, October 23, 2020 to Sunday, March 21, 2021