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Prison Art in The Angola Project
The Angola Project

Mahalia Jackson Center
2405 Jackson Avenue
Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation
504.359.6802
Monday- Friday, 10am – 5 pm

This
exhibition features Prospect artists who have developed work in and
about Angola State Penitentiary, presented together with art by Angola
prisoners. Symposium and community activities at the recently opened
school and community center in Central City, organized in collaboration
with the Innocence Project and Resurrection after Exoneration, are
planned in conjunction with the exhibition.
The paintings that are exhibited were all made by inmates at Angola State Penitentiary and belong to what is known as Prison Art. So called Prison Art
is considered to be a subgenre of Outsider Art, an anglicized term
adapted from the expression Art Brut, or “Raw Art”, coined by the Swiss
artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art that wasn’t tainted by accepted
cultural norms or the artistic mainstream, in other words, created by
individuals that had no training or formation but displayed exceptional
individuality and inventiveness. The term has since then evolved, being
confused and often overlapping with other terms such as Folk Art,
Visionary Art or Naive Art. The South, and particularly its
African-American community, has given many of these talents to the
world. Artists like Louisiana born Clementine Hunter, New Orleans’ own
Sister Gertrude Morgan and Herbert Singleton, Grandma Moses, Horace
Pippin, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Tolliver, or Joseph E Yoakum are some
of those who have achieved a status equal to any academically trained
artist. Both the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans
Museum of Art have significant outsider art collections.



Prisoners
are drawn to art not only to while away the time, but also as a way of
communicating, of asserting their selves and finding validation in a
hostile environment, doing something that is of value to them. At
Angola, inmates are also permitted to sell their art through Prison
Administration-approved channels and at events like the Angola Prison
Arts and Crafts Fair events held in October and April every year, in
conjunction with the famous Rodeo. For some inmates, it can be a
significant source of income throughout the year, even as the Prison
Administration keeps 90% of the money earned at the fair and only the
other 10% makes its way back to the artist, in the form of art supplies.

While
generally Prison Art will not go beyond bland imitation and common
themes, there are inmates who have transcended the label through their
work and personality, to create works of considerable artistic value
that find their way to the general public’s attention; works that
demonstrate that the artistic ability is a fundamental aspect of the
human personality independent of origin or social circumstance. The
works we see here may not make it into the museums, but they have
afforded the artist a means to express the palpable and moving
humanness and care that they transmit.

We would like to thank everyone who has generously lent their work to the exhibition.

http://www.prospectneworleans.org/

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