Monuments: Photographing Uprising and Rebellion in Post-MLK Chicago, 1968.
Photographs by Karega Kofi Moyo
With an installation by Spencer Hutchinson
January 12 to February 23, 2018
There are times when the images in a photograph feel too big, too profound to contain in a space or in words.
This is such a time.
Rootwork Gallery is extremely privileged to present “Monuments,” an exhibition that forces it to punch above its weight.
Two years after Martin Luther King famously marched through the streets of Chicago demanding economic justice for its people, those same streets are overtaken by crowds gathered in grief and rage after his April 1968 assassination.
Drawn to the westside neighborhood where he once worked as a teacher, Moyo captures a young boy’s traumatic encounter with riot police charged to quell the protests. With each successive image, the boy’s initial innocence and fascination gives way to terror, evoking for the viewer the contemporary tragedies of Tamir Rice and Tyre King, where childhood is not an exemption.
Later that year, Moyo would train his lens on protests surrounding the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago. Intended as reference photographs, this body of images further contextualize the exhibition’s centerpiece and bring us forward to the Chicago we have now inherited.
These photographs, shown for the first time, have waited 50 years for this moment. As a body, they provide important insight into Chicago’s socio-political state in the late 1960’s, it’s progressiveness, its backwardness, and the literally monumental impact of that era on our contemporary histories.
An installation by the promising and able young artist, Spencer Hutchinson, holds space for Dr. King, who is the exhibition’s absent referent.
With its mission of raising the visibility of visual and performing artists that deserve wider attention, Rootwork Gallery is delighted introduce to some and reintroduce to others, Karega Kofi Moyo, a Chicago photo-documentarian whose work, like so many of his generation, has too long been overlooked.
— Tracie D. Hall, exhibition curator and founder of Rootwork Gallery
Several talks and panels will accompany this exhibition.
Karega Kofi Moyo.
Born in Chicago in 1939 to Arnold C. Saunders and Lydia Louise Monia, Karega was provided with a rich experiential environment. Following footprints and patterns established by his parents, Karega built his career in photojournalism, freelancing widely with the Chicago Defender, Ebony magazine and many other institutions and in a 13-year residency at the University of Chicago’s Public Information Office. He has been noted for his assistance in the early development of Third World Press and the Institute of Positive Education in the 1970’s, serving as a photographer and in graphics design, layout, and publishing in both management and volunteer positions.
Karega says Edward Steichen’s “Family of Man” photo-exhibition “impacted me greatly, setting me on a course of discovery of the works of Gordon Parks, James Van Der Zee, Roy DeCarava and other contributors to documentation of the Black experience. At the same time serious social change was being played out on the streets and halls of government that demanded involvement. Black Power, The Black Panthers, Police Riots, the Assassination of Martin Luther King, CIA incursion and destabilization of African countries during the 1960 through 1980’s were compelling reasons to be more than a casual observer of needed change.”
Freelance assignments in Africa resulted in Karega’s eventual move to Monrovia, Liberia where he launched Resource Associates, a cultural business collective. After returning to the US due to political unrest in 1984, he incorporated Resource International Ltd. and co-founded Real Men Cook for Charity leading to a book with with Simon and Schuster, titled Real Men Cook: Rites, Rituals, and Recipes for Living with a foreword by then-US Senator Barak Obama who was a regular participant in RMC events.
The recipient of many awards including the Community Mental Health Council’s Leadership award; the Chicago Tribune “Good Eating” award; and the Turner Network “Trumpet” award; Karega is father to 8 children (his daughter Zelpah was killed in a tragic accident at age 16). An active steward of cultural organizations nationwide, Karega is currently working on the Zepia Studio Collection, an archival record of 25 years of his work as a photographer.
Spencer is a 2009 BFA Graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he studied Painting, Sound, Video, and 3D animation. His work has been shown nationally and internationaly in Sacramento CA, Chicago IL, Knoxville TN, Mexico City, Ravenna IT, Assisi IT, and Manchester, UK.
He is a dual resident of Trumansburg, New York and Chicago, Illinois. A full echo of Hutchinson’s work is planned for later in Rootwork’s season.