Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Image: Mark Loughney, Pyrrhic Defeat: A Visual Study of Mass Incarceration, 2014-present. Graphite on paper (series of 500 drawings).

Paul Robeson Galleries

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, is a conversation between Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, author and curator of MoMA PS1’s exhibition Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, and formerly incarcerated artist, Ojore Lutalo. During this discussion, Ojore will discuss his experience making art in solitary confinement, working with Dr. Nicole on the exhibition and the work he does with American Friends of Service Committee.

This program is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Voices from Outside: Critical Resistance on view at the CJ Gallery, located on the 5th floor of Rutgers University – Newark’s Criminal Justice Building.

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Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood is Professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University- New Brunswick. She is a writer, curator, and art critic whose interests are contemporary black diasporic art and visual culture, photography studies, art and public practice, performance studies, gender and feminist studies, black cultural history, creative nonfiction, prison abolition and carceral studies, and poverty studies. She is the author of three books: Marking Time: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration (Harvard University Press, 2020), On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (Rutgers University Press, 2015), and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness, which was the recipient of the 2012 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize of the American Studies Association. Her articles appear in African American Review, American Quarterly, Aperture, Callaloo: Art and Culture in the African Diaspora, The Conversation, LitHub, Public Books, Public Culture, Signs, Social Text, art catalogues, and edited anthologies. Fleetwood received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in the Program in Modern Thought and Literature and her B.Phil. from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University (Ohio). Her upcoming exhibition, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, will be on view at MoMA PS1 from April 5, 2020 – August 23, 2020.

The artist Ojore Lutalo was released from Trenton State Penitentiary August 26th, 2009 by way of a court order. He maxed out after 28 years, 22 of which were spent in the Management Control Unit (Solitary Confinement). In order to keep his sanity during his internment, Ojore abided by a strict regiment of physical exercise, mediation and study. Over the years Ojore was asked repeatedly to describe the conditions that he faced on a daily basis. These requests ranged from simple curiosity as to the physical particulars of his cell and surroundings to the profound emotional pressures and struggles associated with long term solitary confinement. Ojore began creating his political propaganda both as a way to maintain his sanity and to more adequately convey to his friends the physical and emotional reality he experienced within solitary confinement. For the last 22 years of his confinement Ojore created a wide range of art pieces offering his unique perspective. Since his release is 2008, Ojore dedicates himself to assisting the American Friends Service Committee in its attempt to expose the true nature and extent of long term isolation, its effect both on the prisoner individually as well as society at large. This outreach often involves speaking engagements in which he uses artwork to re-enforce his text, finding visuals often communicate more effectively than a purely oral presentation.