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Exhibit dedicated to the work and life of Angela Davis will show at OMCA in October

Exhibit dedicated to the work and life of Angela Davis will show at OMCA in October
Angela Davis speaks at a press conference following her release on bail during her trial in 1972. | Photo: Courtesy of OMCA via Stephen Shames / Polaris Images
By Matt Charnock - Published on August 23, 2022.

Titled Seize the Time, the Oakland Museum of California’s upcoming exhibit is curated around the influence of activist and scholar Angela Davis and spans over 130 pieces — from print media to courtroom sketches, as well as contemporary artwork and historic photographs — which will be organized into four sections, each one themed around a specific topic around her work.

Coming to the West Coast for the first time after debuting at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Seize the Time will open to the public at OMCA (1000 Oak Street) on October 7. During its months-long run, which will conclude on June 13, 2022, the exhibit will guide museum-goers into the life of Angela Davis, arranging that journey through the lenses of race, gender, economics, and policy.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Zimmerli at Rutgers University to highlight a world-renowned historical figure with deep connections to our city,” said OMCA Director and CEO Lori Fogarty in a press release. “As with our recent exhibitions All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 and Hella Feminist, ‘Seize the Time’ connects our community with timely topics of both national and international significance with local and regional ties; in this case, we’re exploring the life of Angela Davis, a local icon with a global impact. We hope that visitors can dive deeper into the empowering legacy of Davis, and feel inspired to create change.”

Upon entering the gallery, guests are greeted by two enlarged prints. One of them includes a photo of Davis in a packed UCLA lecture hall — an homage to her history with the college where she conducted her first lecture in 1969 and would later start teaching 45 years later. 

The display also takes a specific focus on the height of the Black Panther movement between the mid-1960s and early-1970s.

“The events of 1969 to 1972 launched a young, Black UCLA philosophy professor into international prominence, making her image an icon of hope and a symbol of Black resistance,” said Donna Gustafson, Zimmerli’s chief curator, who co-curated the gallery with OMCA Project Lead Lisa Silberstein and Curator Peggy Monahan, as well as Gerry Beegan, professor in art and design at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts. “Our visitors were extremely moved by this exhibition, and we’re so glad that ‘Seize the Time’ will make its way to the Oakland Museum of California to celebrate the life of Angela Davis, who is based in Oakland, and learn more about her extraordinary story.”

The exhibit's four primary sections delve into Davis’s decades-long work — that continues to this day — in advocating for civil rights, police and incarceration reform, and economic policies that both represent and assist the most vulnerable among us. Beyond the on-display archive, the exhibition places Davis as an enduring fixture for contemporary artists who reference her history as a political icon, using her ascribed thoughts on revolution, feminism, and incarceration as focal points in their works.

A particular highlight of the display will be found in its second section, which dips into why Davis was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1970, as well as the story behind her subsequent trial. On one wall, a "Most Wanted" poster will be put on display. To create some narrative contrast, on the other side of the same wall, curators have chosen to put up a poster reading, “Sister: You Are Welcome Here,” to echo the dueling points of view during that time.  

A kaleidoscope of postcards, images, courtroom sketches, letters, and even jacket pins populate the entire exhibit, from start to finish. And at the end, a new 30-minute video interview with Davis that was conducted by OMCA in 2019 will be screened, which shows Angela Davis discussing her journey related to race, gender, economy, and political policy. 

For more information on Seize the Time, including OMCA’s current exhibits on display — which includes the critically acclaimed Hella Feminist exhibit — and museum hours, visit museumca.org/plan-your-visit.