Documenting the image, influence, and activism of Angela Davis with some 220 objects, Angela Davis — Seize the Time not only examines her arrest, incarceration, trial, and the national and international campaigns to free her but also positions her as a continuing touchstone for contemporary artists. Inspired by and centered on a collection compiled by Oakland archivist Lisbet Tellefsen, the exhibition is on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University through June 15, 2022.

In 1969, Angela Davis was fired from UCLA, accused of involvement in a shootout that resulted in the deaths of four men, and put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. She spent several months as a fugitive until her arrest. Her image became the focus and the tool of an unprecedented international effort to free an incarcerated black woman.

Work by Black artists who produced art in support of Davis during this period — including Félix Beltrán, Herb Bruce, Elizabeth Catlett, Wadsworth Jarrell, and Faith Ringgold — are displayed in the museum’s galleries alongside anonymous posters by activists. Coverage of her 1972 trial and acquittal is presented through television footage, magazines, press photography, court sketches, and legal writings.

Archival materials are combined with works by contemporary artists — Terry Boddie, Bethany Collins, Mel Edwards, Renée Green, Yevgeniy Fiks, Juan Sanchez, Carrie Schneider, Stephen Tourlentes, and Keith Walsh, among others — to explore how images, music, and words actualize and revisit communal memories of Davis and the issues that she has been committed to for more than 50 years.

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The exhibition is co-curated by Donna Gustafson, the Zimmerli’s Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs, and Gerry Beegan, professor in Art & Design at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, with the assistance of an advisory group of intersectional scholars, artists, activists, and archivists, including Nicole Fleetwood, Daonne Huff, Ericka Huggins, Steffani Jemison, and Lisbet Tellefsen. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue of the same title, which is available in the museum and from Hirmer Publishers and the University of Chicago Press. It also travels to the Oakland Museum of California in the fall of 2022.