Shown in 1972 at the De Luxe Black Arts Center in Houston, one of the first U.S. exhibition spaces to place the work of artists of color alongside that of their white peers, Power Flight takes an experimental approach to painting, moving it off the wall and into three-dimensional space. Freed from the confines of a stretcher, the canvas, composed of five connected triangles, is pulled taut by ropes. The resulting shape suggests nomadic shelters, easily assembled and disassembled by individuals fleeing harm. Using the colors of the Pan-African flag, Joe Overstreet connects metaphors of flight and nomadism to transnational struggles for black liberation.
Committed to both experimental art-making and socio-political engagement, the artist notes that his life and work have been "tied up in abstract shape with what black [people] have felt and struggled." In 1973 he and his wife founded Kenkeleba House, a New York gallery focused on artists underrepresented by mainstream institutions.
Acrylic on canvas with metal grommets and white rope
98 1/16 × 164 in. (249 × 416.5 cm)
storage (Stored rolled. Tube dimensions): 8 x 110 x 8 in. (20.3 x 279.4 x 20.3 cm)
This item is not on view
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John de Menil
© Joe Overstreet
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Joe Overstreet (American, 1933-2019). Power Flight, 1971. Acrylic on canvas with metal grommets and white rope, 98 1/16 × 164 in. (249 × 416.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John de Menil, 72.165. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 72.165_view1_PS2.jpg)
installation, 72.165_view1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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