This work is part of a series of infinity mirror sculptures Glenn Kaino created as part of an homage to Olympian Tommie Smith, whose silent protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City became an international triumph for Black civil rights, and an international scandal for the sporting community. After winning the 200-meter men’s race and becoming the first runner ever to break the 20-second barrier in the contest, Smith, along with Bronze Medal winner John Carlos, took the medal stand, bowed their heads solemnly and raised their fists high in the air in the Black Power salute. The protest made Smith and Carlos heroes to many, and outlaws to many more. They suffered relentlessly throughout their careers because of the silent protest. The infinite reflection created in this piece creates a golden path into the present, but connected to the past—a spectacular reconciliation of a historic record, an individual memory, and a public symbol.
This work comes out of a decade-long collaboration between Kaino and Smith, which has also resulted in the creation of several other dynamic artworks celebrating Smith’s protest, including a monumental golden bridge made from casts of Smith’s forearm and fist, and a reflective Invisible Man sculpture portraying Smith raising his arm in protest.
Kaino’s collaboration with Smith recently culminated in the acquisition by streaming giant Starz of Kaino’s documentary With Drawn Arms, which tells the whole story of Smith’s protest and the ensuing struggles he has faced as an athlete and an activist. More than eight years in the making, the documentary gives Smith the chance to tell his whole story in his own words, and brings into sharp focus the changing social realities that Smith has helped manifest. With Drawn Arms also features candid interviews with activist Jesse Williams, gold medalist Megan Rapinoe, and late Congressman John Lewis, among others. In 2020, the film opened the Hamptons Film Festival and was chosen as an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival before being acquired by Starz.