Baxter St at CCNY is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by Sadie Barnette, curated by Alexandra Giniger. Barnette, a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, returns to present Do Not Destroy, her first solo exhibition in New York City. The show features new works using as primary source material the 500-page FBI surveillance file on Barnette’s father, Rodney Barnette, who founded the Compton, California, chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968. The multi-media works embody an intergenerational father-daughter conversation, uniting the personal and the political.
An installation entitled “My Father’s FBI File: Part II” is the second iteration of a project currently featured in the Oakland Museum of California’s All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50. Hundreds of pages of the extensive FBI file cover one long wall of the storefront gallery. Splashes of pink spray paint and rhinestones adorn the black-and-white file pages, which are punctuated with officious markings, the redacted names of ten informants, hand-written margin notes, and a stamp on the first page of the file reading, “Historical Value/Do Not Destroy.” Barnette’s pointed use of pink and glitter speaks to “girldom” in her father-daughter conversation and puts her unique mark on the FBI documents as a way of claiming power. Utilizing these practices in “My Father’s FBI File: Part II,” Barnette creates a historical tapestry through which she reclaims her father’s story from the framework of repressive forces intent on dismantling the Black Panthers, and boldly presents an authentic telling of her family tree.
Do Not Destroy includes a diptych of massively enlarged Polaroid portraits of the artist’s father in the late 1960s. In one image, he is 21 years of age and, having been drafted into the Army, stands earnestly in his uniform, medals, and polished boots in the family living room. In the second photograph, he dons the classic “Panther uniform” of a leather jacket and black beret, the army medals replaced with Black power buttons. This before-and-after pairing of photos connects the Vietnam war to which he was sent and the war waged by the police on the Black community to which he returned; it was this war he committed to organizing against by joining the Black Panther Party. These histories – personal, Black, American, political – cannot and will not be destroyed.
Sadie Barnette (b. 1984 Oakland, CA) earned her BFA from CalArts and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, The Mistake Room, Self Help Graphics, Charlie James Gallery, Ever Gold Projects, Papillion Gallery, Jenkins-Johnson Gallery, and Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa. Barnette has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian UK, Artforum, Artillery Magazine, The Fader, and SFAQ, among other publications. Her work is in the permanent collections of museums such as The Pérez Art Museum in Miami, the California African American Museum, and The Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2017 Barnette will have a solo exhibition at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis. She lives and works in Oakland, CA and Compton, CA.