The Sum of Unity
The Sum of Unity, organized by artist and Herron alumnus Samuel Levi Jones, is a composite exhibition and response to the request to consider the, "divisive climate we all find ourselves in." From this point of departure, the main thrust of this exhibition is artist produced protest signs. Over fifty Indiana- and Chicago-based artists have been asked to amplify their collective voices through this often-overlooked art form. Participants have been guided not by a particular political stance or issue of Jones' choosing, but rather to consider social issues that are meaningful to them and respond in their own media.
Participants in the exhibition have approached the creation of signs through a variety of methods. Graphic designers as well as visual artists, from painters and sculptors, to textile and conceptual artists, are among the contributors. Issues addressed include Black Lives Matters, environmental concerns, and domestic violence, to name just a few.
As auxiliary components of the exhibition, local Indianapolis artists Shamira Wilson and Clayton Hamilton have produced new large-scale murals featured alongside the collection of protest signs. The final element of the exhibition is a looping screening of Kota Ezawa's 2018 animated video, National Anthem. First exhibited at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, National Anthem depicts professional NFL athletes "taking a knee" during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color.
Being a Black artist, Jones' recognizes the unique position he finds himself in, sometimes being asked to speak for the multitudes, to stand for the Black position. The format of this exhibition was intentionally selected by Jones as a way to share that power with other individuals. We are in a singular and uncertain moment in time, confronting numerous inequities, many because of the historic oppression of others. This exhibition is meant to serve as a platform for empowerment, a way of showing unity, while highlighting the power of the individual voice.
Of the exhibition, Jones has remarked, "as I embark on my second curatorial project, it is my desire to push forth ideals of collectivism. In looking back on the year 2020 with the struggle of the global pandemic along with the social battle for human equality far and wide, division between people has been high. It was my desire to create a platform for an array of artists to come together and express their sentiments as one. I continually note, as humans, we are more alike than not, and it is extremely important that we move closer as a collective unit to create a better existence for all."