Jay Simple: Where The Young Bols Rumble
September 14 – December 16, 2023
Free To The Public
What does it mean to grow up learning that surviving means fighting? Surviving the streets, surviving the systems, surviving despite ourselves. How can we recover from the tumultuous bubbling of the wake, the aftermath of the historical and contemporary trauma of our experiences? How do we turn surviving, gasping for air, into living?
This exhibition is a shifting through time, space, ourselves, the fantasy, and the “real.” It is the alchemy of old; it is a spell to grant us, for a second, a space to reflect on the cosmic slop that is the American Dream (and Nightmare). This is where the young bols rumble, nobody gets out unbruised, and surviving the wounds becomes more complicated with time.
Jay Simple is a son, a brother, a father, a friend, an artist, an activist, and a scholar led by his ancestors and Allah. He was born in the ghetto of the Universe, Earth, where he is currently trying to untangle himself from the degradation within the systems of his time. He is one dark body enduring attempts of being torn asunder and reveling in the eternal and multidimensionality of his radiant black nature.
Support for this exhibition provided in part by The William Penn Foundation
To learn more about the show, check out these tiles:
The Spook Who Sat By the Door
"The Spook Who Sat By The Door" is the 1973 film adaptation of a novel by the same name. Directed by Ivan Dixon, it follows a Black CIA operative as he returns to his Chicago community and to train a group of Black youth for guerrilla warfare aimed at improving the conditions of Black people. "Spook" is used both as an anti-Black slur and a descriptor of the spies.
Longwood University, 1918
Founded in 1839, Longwood University is a public university located in Farmville, Virginia. For the first century of it's existence, Longwood billed itself as an all-women's college. Longwood admitted its first Black student in 1966. Jay Simple worked at Longwood University as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography.
The Gold Dust Twins
The Gold Dust Twins were product mascots introduced in 1892 by the Fairbank’s corporation to advertise their Gold Dust washing products. These caricatures of Black children were often shown in tandem with the slogan “Let the Twins Do Your Work”. The campaign was so popular that it inspired a 1920s radio show, featuring two Blackface minstrel performers.
This photo references an iconic photo of Malcolm X taken by Don Hogan Charles just 6 months before his murder. It was first published in the March 1964 issue of Life Magazine. A few months later, similar photos appeared in the 1964 September issue of Ebony.
Benjamin Box Brown
The title of the series is a portmanteau of the book "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in which the protagonist spends his life aging backwards and the real life story of Henry "Box" Brown, an enslaved Black man who mailed himself to freedom. In 1849, he bought a 3x2 foot crate and arranged for it to be shipped for $86 from his master’s home in Richmond, Virginia to the office a prominent Philadelphia-based abolitionist.
Gold Dust & American Gothic
Gordon Parks made "Washington, D.C. Government Charwoman (American Gothic)" in July 1942. The photograph depicts federal worker Ella Watson in front of an American flag hanging in a government office. Later, Parks titled the image "American Gothic", after Grant Woods' famous painting which features a set of similarly positioned subjects.
Wolves of Vinland at Black Cemetery
The person in this image is Paul Waggener, a co-founder of the Virginia based white supremacist hate group Wolves of Vinland. Waggener is shown here at The Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Old City Cemetery is one of the oldest gravesites in the state and a place where over 75% of the people buried there are African-American.
Enslaved Africans sent to America found various methods of resistance, including the continued practice of certain aspects of their ancestral religion. A notable example of this are libation ceremonies where loved ones gather to honor their ancestors and deceased relatives by pouring a liquid on the ground. Contemporary scholars cite the practice of "pouring one for the dead homies," as an instance of the continued impact of African traditions.
Trumping the Trumpet
The text "AHHHH OOOOO" is a chant preformed by the titular army of 300 (2007).
Who Landed on Vinegar Hill 1964
Vinegar Hill is a neighborhood in Charlottesville, VA. Due to strict redlining, it served as a bustling area for Black commerce and residential property ownership from the early 1900s until 1965. In 1965, the City of Charlottesville tore down the homes and businesses to make room for an “urban renewal project”. Many Black residents were either displaced or given the option to live in public housing which began to deteriorate in 1985. Today, the area is primarily made up of commercial parking lots.
Directed by Amir George, this film shows a fencing match refereed by an Egungun. Within the Yoruba language and tradition, Egunguns are physical manifestations of ancestors that the community gathers to celebrate and remember. Egungun is pronounced eh-GUNE-GUNE.
The monument in this series is located in Providence, Rhode Island. It was constructed in honor of the 16th century Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano for being "the first" to discover the land, giving no acknowledgement to the Indigenous people that were already there.
Jefferson Davis’ Last Night
Jefferson Davis was an American politician best known as the president of the Confederate States of America. Davis' tenure as president, lasted from 1861 to 1865, the duration of the American Civil War. This image was captured at the Sutherlin Mansion in Danville, VA. It is the room Davis stayed in on the last night before the Confederacy surrendered.
Through the Water
The soundtrack to this video is a rendition of "Wade In The Water" a classic Negro spiritual. It is a biblical reference to the Israelites crossing over into the promised land. It has particular resonance in contemporary Black culture, which has historically aligning their struggle for freedom in this country through a Christian framework.
The background image in this collage is a World War I-era propaganda poster. This poster served as early inspiration for the iconic movie creature known as King Kong. The iconography is especially important in American history due to its prevalence as shorthand for excessive Black male brutality against white womanhood.
This self-portrait was taken in Prince Edward County, Pamplin, Virginia on land that was formerly a plantation. The artist discovered a rundown shack while living in the area, surmising that it likely served as slave quarters.