b. Washington, DC, 1953; d. New York, 2014
A Man Was Lynched Yesterday, 2009
58 1/4 x 92 inches
Courtesy of the Estate of Terry Adkins, Salon 94, New York
Beginning in 1920, in conjunction with its nationwide anti-lynching campaign, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People began flying a flag from the window of its headquarters at 69 Fifth Avenue, New York, whenever a lynching occurred. A striking graphic statement, the banner was displayed regularly until threat of eviction forced the NAACP to discontinue the practice in 1938.
Terry Adkins’s work is a replica of this flag, and a quietly devastating reflection on the ways in which the past remains present and societies fail to move forward. Both a sculptor and a musician, Adkins is known for taking an improvisational approach to his work, revisiting previous ideas or objects and reinventing them through new combinations. A Man Was Lynched Yesterday has been displayed before in galleries and outdoors, in conjunction with music and spoken-word performances, and alongside copies of government records on W.E.B. Du Bois, an NAACP leader and so-called “agitator” who also famously claimed, “All art is propaganda.”