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Visualizing Abolition with Angela Y. Davis and Gina Dent

Barring Freedom is a contemporary at exhibition engaging issues of prisons, policing, and justice on view at San José Museum of Art October 30, 2020-April 25, 2021. It is accompanied by Solitary Garden, a public art project about mass incarceration and solitary confinement, at UC Santa Cruz.

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October 30, 2020 @ 4:00 pm April 25, 2021 @ 5:30 pm

A sculpture of hands grasping barbed wire.

Curated by Dr. Rachel Nelson, Director, Institute of the Arts and Sciences and Alexandra Moore, IAS Curatorial Fellow, Barring Freedom features works by important U.S. based artists 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 nation. Barring Freedom considers the strategies artists use to reveal this unjust and racist worldview as well as the social problems that 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 Professor Dent in conjunction with Barring Freedom. All events will be recorded and archived at

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 historical 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 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.

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

Barring Freedom is organized by the UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences and San José Museum of Art. The exhibition and related programming has been generously funded by the Nion McEvoy Family Trust, Ford Foundation. 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.

PDF: Barring Freedom 

File Attachment: 

PDF icon Barring Freedom Webpage PDF.pdf


October 30, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
April 25, 2021 @ 5:30 pm
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