American People, Faith Ringgold’s first exhibition outside Harlem, opened at Spectrum Gallery on 57th Street in December 1967. The exhibition featured her three murals, including U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating The Advent of Black Power (1967). Despite Ringgold’s determination to exhibit her paintings throughout the mid-1960s, she initially met with little success. The white-owned commercial galleries on 57th Street were dismissive, and Spiral, identified affectionately as the “old men of Black art“ by the painter Vivian Brown, declined to admit her into the group. But following public displays of her work in Harlem in 1966 — including in a traveling caravan exhibition organized by Amiri Baraka “(then LeRoi Jones) and Betty Blayton-Taylor for the Black Arts Repertory Theater — she was invited to join the cooperative Spectrum Gallery, where New York school abstraction was still prominent and every artist on the roster except Ringgold was white.
U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating The Advent of Black Power uses then-popular elements of repetition, the grid, and text to assert and communicate ring gold‘s optimistic vision of the burgeoning Black Power era. Concealed within the tiled faces, meant to represent the demographic composition of the US, or the phrase is “Black Power” and “White Power.” Although the diagonal black text reading “Black Power” is easy to locate, the phrase “White Power” is both harder to detect and much more routed into the paintings overall structure — a damning statement on American life and entrenched systems of power and discrimination
Photographed in the New Museum in Manhattan as part of the Exhibit, Faith Ringgold: American People on View Through June 5th, 2022.