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The Freedom Principle

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PRODUCT: The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now
SIZE: 10" high x 8" wide
MATERIALS: Softcover
In the middle and late 1960s, many African American artists grappled culturally, politically, and organizationally with the black nationalist turn in the United States Civil Rights movement. Experiments in music, the visual arts, performance, and other forms—as well as in the institutional structures of art making and training—left their mark on many participants. The significance of that moment continues to inform, even haunt, contemporary searches for both individual and collective freedom within the context of today’s black avant-garde. The intergenerational story of this quest for freedom—from the “ancient to the future,” as the Art Ensemble of Chicago put it—is the topic of the book The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, which accompanies the exhibition appearing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a still-flourishing organization of Chicago musicians who challenge the boundaries of jazz, provides the occasion for the exhibition, which is co-organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator, and Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator. The book is not merely a historical survey of the AACM or the larger development of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s. It provides a solid framework for understanding that history by bringing together archival materials with contemporary responses—both by artists and essayists—to give readers a rich sense of the ongoing stakes of experimentation, improvisation, collective action, and the pursuit of liberation within the tradition of the AACM and related Chicago groups such as the visual artists who worked together as the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AFRICOBRA).

The book takes its title from a phrase coined by Chicago jazz critic John Litweiler. It includes artworks by AACM-founder, pianist, and painter Muhal Richard Abrams; Art Ensemble of Chicago bandleader Roscoe Mitchell; and AFRICOBRA cofounders Jeff Donaldson, Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams. Archival materials—brochures, banners, photographs, posters, sheet music, record covers—provide a rich context for essays by curators Beckwith and Roelstraete as well as Chicago music expert and gallerist John Corbett, award-winning AACM composer, musician, and historian George Lewis, AFRICOBRA art historian Rebecca Zorach, a roundtable conversation with AACM cellist Tomeka Reid, Chicago scholar Romi Crawford, and artist and curator Hamza Walker, and an afterword by poet and critic Fred Moten. A selected discography and chronology are featured in the book along with the presentation of contemporary art works by Terry Adkins, Nick Cave, Rashid Johnson, Cauleen Smith, Catherine Sullivan, and Stan Douglas—all of which present evocative engagements with the legacies of AACM, AFRICOBRA, and the larger Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. An online microsite will accompany the exhibition and book.

320 pages with 300 illustrations, copublished by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago with the University of Chicago Press. The Freedom Principle is organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator, and Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition was presented at the MCA Jul 11-Nov 22, 2015. Learn more.
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