Rosalind Fox Solomon: Liberty Theater

“Liberty Theater” brings together Fox Solomon’s photographs made in the Southern United States from the 1970s to the 1990s. Never before exhibited as a group, the images depict a complex terrain of social and emotional issues inherited over generations. This includes a world of class and gender divisions, implied and overt racism, competing notions of liberty, and an undercurrent of violence.

The project began 40 years ago in Scottsboro, Alabama, at a monthly market around the courthouse where, in a historic case of injustice, seven young men of colour were falsely accused of rape and sentenced to jail for the better part of their lives.

Over a period of four years, Fox Solomon worked in Scottsboro. She photographed people and still life, and began her series “Ritual”. The project continued as she traveled through Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Through the images taken in these locations, Fox Solomon draws attention to cultural idiosyncrasies, paradoxes, and theatrical displays. An image of a daughter of the Confederacy in costume with a china doll from her collection is juxtaposed by an image of two young African American boys examining a vitrine of guns as white police mannequins loom behind them. Poised between act and re-enactment, the animate and the inanimate, Fox Solomon’s images reveal how history becomes a vernacular performance.

Although this work only touches on positive change in race relations that have occurred since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the images harken back to a time when racial discrimination was normalized through the veneer of plantation culture. The unmasked Ku Klux Klan in the Charlottesville demonstrations of 2017 and emboldened far right speak to the underlay of racism that persists in the United States today.