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A Walk Through Sacred and Profound History

Misty Brown | 1/21/2009, 3:13 p.m.

€From Slavery to Freedom: A Tribute to Obama€ is currently on view at Parish Gallery. This politically aggressive exhibition features the work of Robert Sengstacke, called €one of the most significant photographers of the Civil Rights era,€ by the New York Times.
€I never tried out to be the best. Art is a form of religion in itself,€ said Sengstacke, considered a trailblazer of cutting-edge photography. This show is accompanied by a video with a compelling soundtrack titled, €Coppin€ The Ghost.€ It is a phrase that means you must get the shot.
A native of Chicago, most of Sengstacke€s images are portraits of historical and political figures, including Shirley Chisolm and Sarah Vaughn. He also exhibits familiar family scenes of Northerners and Southerners. The viewer enters a time-capsule of more than 50 years with the 25 black and white images on display.

One striking image spotlights former heavyweight champion Joe Louis with Fidel Castro. On sight are two commanding photographs recording the tumultuous political climate when the New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1945-1971) lost his chairmanship of the powerful Education and Labor Committee where he steered over 50 bills through Congress.

As one of only two Black Congressmen, Powell challenged the informal ban on Black representatives using Capitol facilities reserved for members only. Sengstacke injected the stark reality of his arrival at the Capitol and the frenzied atmosphere during his investigation.

There is an image of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. walking with two others in jeans reading the headline of the Chicago Defender that stated, €King Murdered.€ In 1905, the newspaper was regarded as America€s largest and most influential Black weekly newspaper by the beginning of World War I.

Also, President Barack Obama is captured in the moment of having fun and dancing at the African Festival held on the grounds around the Du Sable Museum in Chicago.

Visual artist Joyce Owens€s portraits complement Sengstacke€s photography. She created a palette of neutral tones (grey, black and white) on wooden crates. These exquisite portraits of our ancestors offer a rarefied air of splendor and elegance.

The show gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect on history and evokes fond memories of our heroes, idols and forgotten relatives of the Antebellum and Reconstruction era.

The show runs through Jan. 31 at Parish Gallery in Georgetown, Northwest. Visit www.parishgallery.com for gallery hours.