Lessons of the Hour at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts

14 October 2020 - 13 March 2021

Isaac Julien's immersive, meditative portrait of Frederick Douglass Lessons of the Hour opens on Wednesday, 14th of October at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts in San Francisco. 


This ten-screen film installation and photography exhibition explores the life of the visionary African American writer, abolitionist, statesman, and freed slave Frederick Douglass. Incorporating excerpts from Douglass’ speeches and dramatizations of his private and public milieus, the centerpiece of the exhibition, Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass (2019) offers a contemplative, poetic journey into Douglass’ zeitgeist and a forceful suggestion that the lessons of the abolitionist’s hour have yet to be learned.


Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is a pivotal figure in the history of abolitionism and social reform in the United States who delivered anti-slavery campaigns across the northern United States and the United Kingdom. He was active in the women’s suffrage movement and published three autobiographies which continue to wield cultural influence. The most photographed man of the nineteenth-century, Douglass was a prominent proponent of the medium as a means by which Black people could control their likenesses beyond caricature.


For this exhibititon, Lessons of the Hour is accompanied by Julien’s tintype portraits and mise en scènes photographs of the film’s subjects as well as a complementary grouping of works from the McEvoy Family Collection. The exhibition is developed in collaboration with the Isaac Julien Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where Julien is a Distinguished Professor of the Arts, to give a community of postgraduate students a practicum experience in curation, installation, and production of a moving-image work. 

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