Artists on “I Have a Dream”

Exhibition Based on Martin Luther King for Black History Month

MLK 50 at Espace Culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme to Feb. 18 Photo Amanda Quaglieri

In the multidisciplinary exhibition MLK 50, six contemporary artists reinterpret Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The exhibition is presented as part of Montreal’s Black History Month.

Gunpowder, photography, white face, constructed fashion and fantastical and mythical handmade structures are a few words used to describe the pieces.

Some works, like Jamel Shabazz’s photographs, taken during the March on Washington days and Barack Obama’s inauguration, focus on the positive outcomes of the speech. In contrast, Carolyn Jean Martin uses her gunpowder-painting installation to suggest the fragility and inconsequence of “I Have a Dream” and specifically the notion of a “post-racial society.”

“I wanted to choose a variety of artists from different areas that work in different mediums,” said Vanessa Vaughan, curator of MLK 50.

“Just because I think the issues that are raised in Martin Luther King’s speech are so complex that I feel like it’s worthwhile to get many perspectives in many mediums and many types of artists.”

The exhibit also presents the work of Montreal-based artists Anna Jane McIntyre, Daniel Iregui, Joseph Helmer and Toronto-based photographer Stacey Tyrell. Shabazz and Martin are based in the United States.

“One of the things that people don’t realize is Afro-American and Afro-Canadian artists have largely been excluded from Canada’s art history,” said Vaughan.

He said it was important to have American artists display their work, allowing them to reflect the different realities faced by Afro-Americans and Afro-Canadians. The artists use a variety of methods and materials to convey their perspectives on the legacy of the 50-year-old speech—what has changed and what hasn’t.

The multidisciplinary exhibit is accompanied by archival photographs of King by Max Scheler.

MLK 50 at Espace Culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme (a public hallway in Place des Arts) / to Feb. 18 / Free