Landmark exhibition shines spotlight on the work of black women artists, and examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism.

On June 27, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985. Focusing on the work of over 40 artists and activists, this groundbreaking exhibition examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. It is the first exhibition to highlight the voices and experiences of women of color—distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement—in order to reorient conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period. On view through September 30, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. The ICA’s presentation is coordinated by Jessica Hong, Assistant Curator.

We Wanted a Revolution illuminates a fervent—and too little known—period of art making and social activism by an extraordinary group of women artists,” says Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “The exhibition makes visible the wide diversity of media, styles, materials, and genres reflective of the political, cultural, and social concerns of the day.”

“We are thrilled to bring We Wanted a Revolution to Boston,” says Hong. “Our audiences will gain so much from this robust exhibition, which like the ICA’s Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women, underscores the museum’s commitment to bring under-recognized artistic voices to the fore.”

The exhibition features a wide array of work, including conceptual, performance, film, and video art, as well as photography, painting, sculpture, and printmaking by a diverse group of artists and activists who lived and worked at the intersections of avant-garde art worlds and radical political movements.

Organized in a general chronology around a key group of movements, collectives, actions, and communities, the exhibition builds a narrative based on significant events in the lives of the artists including:

  • Concepts such as Black Feminism
  • Spiral and the Black Arts Movement
  • Collectives such as “Where We At” Black Women Artists, Heresies, Combahee River Collective
  • Art world activism, including the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), Women, Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABAL), and the Judson Three
  • Just Above Midtown Gallery in New York
  • Groundbreaking exhibitions, such as New York’s A.I.R. Gallery exhibition Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States
  • A section focused on the cultural production and activities in the 1980s

Artists in the exhibition include Emma Amos, Camille Billops, Kay Brown, Linda Goode Bryant, Beverly Buchanan, Carole Byard, Elizabeth Catlett, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Ayoka Chenzira, Christine Choy and Susan Robeson, Blondell Cummings, Julie Dash, Pat Davis, Jeff Donaldson, Maren Hassinger, Janet Henry, Virginia Jaramillo, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Lisa Jones, Loïs Mailou Jones, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Carolyn Lawrence, Samella Lewis, Dindga McCannon, Barbara McCullough, Ana Mendieta, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Alva Rogers, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Also on View
On view concurrently is the exhibition Arthur Jafa: Love is the Message, The Message is Death, a seven-minute single-channel video installation by artist, filmmaker, and award-winning cinematographer Arthur Jafa. Called a “crucial ode to black America” by The New Yorker, the masterful installation comprises original and found footage from concerts, marches, music videos, news reports, police cameras, YouTube videos, as well as scenes from Jafa’s well-known 2014 documentary Dreams are Colder than Death, which lyrically reflects on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and contemporary black experiences. The swelling, stirring, gospel-inspired melody of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” juxtaposes the rapid succession of imagery, presenting glimpses of the joys and traumas of black life in the United States, which the artist sees as nuanced, beautiful, and multifaceted.

Opening Reception
Thursday, June 28, 2018 | 6:00 PM
Media are invited to take a first look at We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–1985 and Arthur Jafa: Love is the Message, The Message is Death. At 6:00 PM, there will be a public talk with ICA assistant curator Jessica Hong and curators Catherine Morris and Rujeko Hockley, organizers of We Wanted a Revolution at the Brooklyn Museum, followed by a special opening reception that will be open to the public. RSVP to Margaux Leonard,

About the ICA
An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 80 years. Like its iconic building on Boston’s waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 AM–5 PM; Thursday and Friday, 10 AM–9 PM (1st Friday of every month, 10 AM–5 PM); and Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM–5 PM. Admission is $15 adults, $13 seniors and $10 students, and free for members and children 17 and under. Free admission for families at ICA Play Dates (2 adults + children 12 and under) on last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at Follow the ICA at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 is organized by Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and Rujeko Hockley, former Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum. The Boston presentation is coordinated by Jessica Hong, Assistant Curator, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.

Support for the Boston presentation is provided by David and Leslie Puth.