Notes on Freedom

Jessica Bell Brown, ICA Philadelphia, November 28, 2016

Quieter moments in the exhibition were perhaps even more profound. For example, Jae Jarrell’s revolutionary suede two-piece suit, Brothers Surrounding Sis (1970), offers a subversive commentary on the ways that black women, women like my grandmother, embraced the radical potential of “domestic” craft. But there is an unresolvable tension within femininity here from which Jarrell does not shy away. On the skirt Jarrell has hand-painted gestural strokes of red, blue, and orange black men, linked arm in arm in solidarity. I think of Ida B. Wells, who dedicated her life to protecting black bodies from swinging from trees by making anti-lynching speeches. I also think of the contemporary protest movement Black Lives Matter, started by three women who have made space for us to publically mourn and protest the lost lives of mostly young black men. We see their deaths infinitely regress like GIFs and flee like CNN tickers on the bottom of television screens.


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