but it drives home the point that state violence against Black people is not limited to one time or place.
Ink Tributes: A Powerful Exhibition of Black Struggle and State Violence
Marlon West’s Art Installation at Saint Louis University Museum of Art
When I first heard about Marlon West’s Ink Tributes, a series of comic-book-style portraits of Black people who had been killed by police, coming to St. Louis, I was hesitant to see it. But now that it’s on display at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, I can say that it has exceeded my expectations.
A Powerful Viewing Experience
West’s installation choices, breadth of subjects, and photorealistic style create a powerful viewing experience that sheds light on generations of Black struggle. And the fact that West, a University City-native, has brought this exhibition to his hometown, a city with a long history of police violence, makes it even more impactful.
A Diverse Collection
The exhibition features over 30 comic-style portraits of state violence victims, including well-known names like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Michael Brown, as well as lesser-known victims like Ahmaud Arbery and Sandra Bland. But West also pays tribute to departed civil rights activists and defenders of justice, such as C.T. Vivian, John Lewis, Gloria Richardson Dandridge, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
A Thought-Provoking Journey
As viewers make their way through the four gallery rooms filled with West’s portraits, they are confronted with the reality of state violence against Black people. There is no chronological order to the portraits, forcing viewers to grapple with the fact that these tragedies occur in different cities, in different states, and at different times. It’s a disorienting but necessary reminder that this issue is not limited to one time or place.
A Message from the Artist
West’s introductory passage, etched onto a wall placard, sets the tone for the exhibition. He explains that for many Black people, Marvel’s characters are relatable because they are often hated and hunted by those in power. He also notes that there is no more American form of portraiture than black “inks” over white, a powerful way to honor those who have faced this nation’s fear and loathing of the Black body.
A Must-See Exhibition
Ink Tributes is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged exhibition that challenges viewers to confront the reality of state violence against Black people. It will be on display at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art until Saturday, December 30, so be sure to check it out.