In a first-time collaboration, the San Francisco Center for the Book (SFCB) and the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) are presenting the exhibit Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship, opening August 15 in San Francisco and September 5 in Oakland. AAMLO is a division of the Oakland Public Library.
Curated by Hanna Regev, the exhibit features work from more than 60 artists working in a variety of media. With most artists interpreting a banned book of their choice, the project provides a unique forum for visual artists to respond to the suppression of literary art. The exhibit, with different work on display at each location, will run through November 26 in San Francisco and December 31 in Oakland. Participating artists include Enrique Chagoya, Sandow Birk, Mildred Howard, Emory Douglas, Naomie Kremer and many others.
Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship is timed to coincide with Banned Books Week (September 27-October 3), an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). Banned Books Week began in 1982 as a response to challenges and threats posed to intellectual freedom in the United States.
According to Steve Woodall, SFCB artistic director, "As an organization dedicated to free artistic expression and the future of the book as a work of art, we're delighted to be co-hosting this exhibition. In an election year, with the future of the Supreme Court at stake, it is particularly timely, and AAMLO has proved to be an ideal partner in this undertaking."
Books that have been suppressed constitute a shockingly wide selection, ranging from colonial-era novels to acknowledged contemporary classics—books such as Fanny Hill, Tom Sawyer, The Color Purple, and the Harry Potter novels. "What's most troubling," says AAMLO chief curator Rick Moss, "is how arbitrary the process is. In keeping with the missions of our two organizations, we all felt this was the most thought-provoking and appropriate way to explore this issue, while dovetailing with the ALA's 2008 theme 'free people read freely.'"
Curator Hanna Regev works with many Bay Area cultural organizations and art galleries, producing public programs in history, art, and museum practice. Regev serves on the board of the First Amendment Project, and is a past president of the Northern California Council of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Regev’s view is that: "Collectively, the work initiates an important undertaking—the recovery of fragments of our censored history. We felt that the pairing of visual and graphic artists with these banned and threatened books was a natural one. After all, what better group to interpret suppressed works than visual artists, who are already so attuned to the threat of censorship. The show is a powerful reminder of the fragility of our freedoms, many of which are being chipped away by the Patriot Act. It is a powerful testament to the irrepressible creative spirit."