Babou Ceesay, who plays reluctant hero Marcus Hill in the hit Showtime series Guerrilla, joins art curator Zoe Whitley for a conversation about the similarities between the new exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and the drama, which explores how black artists in America sought to define themselves.
Dual identity lies at the heart of this exhibition, looking at how black artists in the U.S. from 1963 to 1983 sought to define their art at a time when race was a byword for social and political unrest. The issues they faced were also being played out across the pond. This is the background against which John Ridley’s mini-series, Guerrilla, takes place.
Babou Ceesay: What is it about this project that excited you?
Zoe Whitley: What drew me to “Soul of a Nation” was the chance to give artists a voice to be heard and a platform to be understood. Take Frank Bowling, who was British-Guyanese and came to New York in 1966. He, along with artists like Jack Whitten, Joe Overstreet, and Sam Gilliam, revolutionized painting. That’s not an overstatement— yet their names aren’t as well-known as those of their peers.
Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, certainly not Andy Warhol. I hope this exhibition is one step toward changing that.
BC: It’s interesting what you’re saying about artistic representation. With Guer