Mt. Tremper, NY: Maureen Cummins, 2021. Number 15 of 30 copies signed and numbered by the book artist. Maureen Cummins's artists' books often address societal, cultural, and gender issues. In this forceful new work she confronts the issues of systemic discrimination and police brutality against African-American citizens. From the prospectus: She began this project about the 1967 Newark racial protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests across the country - the Newark events offering a surreal parallel to the racism of our time. The events in Newark that Cummins set out to document arose out of decades of discrimination— in housing, education, and government, not to mention long-standing police brutality—all of which culminated on the night of July 12, 1963. When a black cabby, John Smith, was seen dragged into police custody and rumored to be dead, an angry crowd of residents gathered outside the precinct, and violence broke out. What followed was five days of mayhem—businesses looted, buildings in flames, and crossfire from multiple armed forces—that left 26 people dead and hundreds injured. Narrative in Black and White reads as history, memoir, current events, and cautionary tale. The text of the book is comprised of ten stories, most of them a chorus of voices, many dramatically different . On facing pages, images of events transpiring on the ground are viewed through cutout openings within quiet-seeming domestic scenes. In this way, two realities are depicted: black and white, “high” and “low,” the protected and the targeted. Within the pages of the book, which mimic newspaper stories and photos, the artist uses color to comment on color: while the white characters are foregrounded and printed in bold black ink, the black characters are viewed from afar—ghostly, barely there, an allusion to Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” A closer read of both sets of photos, however, reveals a more nuanced and parallel story: the double meaning behind the phrase “domestic unrest.” Housed in a graphic board slipcase with text mimicking newspaper articles on the covers. All text and imagery in Newark 1967: A Narrative in Black and White was silkscreen- printed onto Schaeffer Graphic Board, with laser cuts by Sarah Pike of Freefall Laser. The book was bound by Lisa Hersey using hand-dyed Yukyushi paper for spine-lining and hinges. Period photographs of Cummins and her family are from the artist’s personal collection. Original press photographs have been reproduced by the kind permission of the Associated Press and The Newark Star Ledger. In fine condition. Measures 10 x 12 x 1 inches. 22 pages. fine.
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