Art Review: Truth to Power, Pleiades Gallery's Annual Social Justice Show, Aptly Starts With a Cry of Pain | Arts
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Art Review: Truth to Power, Pleiades Gallery's Annual Social Justice Show, Aptly Starts With a Cry of Pain

Posted by on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 1:48 PM

click to enlarge Clarence Mayo Jr.: "Rage" - PHOTO COURTESY OF PLEIADES GALLERY
  • photo courtesy of Pleiades Gallery
  • Clarence Mayo Jr.: "Rage"
Truth to Power 4
Through Sunday, Aug. 7
Pleiades Gallery, Durham


Before you even enter downtown Durham’s Pleiades Gallery, you’re met by the face of a black man in anguish.

“Rage,” which peers out of the front windows of the gallery, is by Durham’s Clarence Mayo Jr. It depicts the pained, scrunched face of a shouting man. According to the caption that accompanies the emotional painting, “Rage” symbolizes the “Black man’s voiceless cry of despair, distress, frustration, and hopelessness in a world where he is marginalized as a result of societal prejudices.”

Likewise, most of the art in Pleiades annual Truth to Power exhibit has a social-justice tint and comments specifically on the difficult realities of our society today. In one corner of the gallery, a group of pieces focuses on issues surrounding LGBTQ rights, including HB 2 and the recent shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The most striking of these works might be a rainbow-colored poster, “Governor,” by Tom Buhrman, also of Durham. It shows Pat McCrory’s face transposed onto different gender icons, like the ones used on bathroom doors.

“People are immediately drawn to that one,” says Renee Leverty, one of the co-owners and co-founders of the progressive gallery.

click to enlarge photo courtesy of Pleiades Gallery - TOM BUHRMAN: "GOVERNOR"
  • Tom Buhrman: "Governor"
  • photo courtesy of Pleiades Gallery
Filling out the rest of the space are works by local and national artists that focus on subjects including the Black Lives Matter movement, gun violence, transgender identity, mental health stigma, and feminism. And while a lot of the artwork can seem dark in theme, Leverty notes that many of the pieces are actually uplifting.

“A lot of these works are filled with so much pride,” she says as she looks around the space. Both she and Kim Wheaton, the other co-founder and co-owner of Pleiades, have works in the show, as do eight other member artists of the gallery.

While this is the fourth iteration of the Truth to Power exhibit, Wheaton says that this show is different than the last because of the makeup of the artists. Of the twenty-three contributors to the show, almost half are people of color, and half are under age thirty—the youngest artist is only fifteen. Wheaton says that recent events also cast this show in a particularly urgent light.

“Right now there’s so much marginalization and blaming of the other,” says Leverty. “Art helps people who are being vilified.”

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