Black Power – Flower Power
Photographs by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch

February 3 – June 3, 2018

Pho­tog­ra­phy Room Pre­sen­ta­tion

With sym­pa­thy and ob­serv­ing dis­tance, the pho­to­g­ra­pher cou­ple Pirk­le Jones and Ruth-Mari­on Baruch cap­tured the 1960s in San Fran­cis­co, when the Black Pan­thers emerged from the civ­il rights move­ment and hip­pies ex­per­i­ment­ed with new forms of liv­ing and work­ing in the Haight-Ash­bury neigh­bor­hood. It was a time when the vari­ous cur­rents of the civ­il rights move­ment and coun­ter­cul­ture were con­cen­trat­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly on the West Coast of the Unit­ed States. The politi­ciza­tion and rad­i­cal­iza­tion fol­low­ing the as­sassi­na­tion of Mal­colm X and the bloody race ri­ots in Watts, Los An­ge­les, con­trast­ed with anarchic he­don­ism, and the ag­i­ta­tive posters of the Black Pan­thers could be seen along­side psychedel­ic posters from the hip­pie cul­ture across the ur­ban land­s­cape.

In 2013 the Mu­se­um Lud­wig re­ceived a do­na­tion of fif­ty-two pho­to­graphs by Ruth-Mari­on Baruch and Pirk­le Jones from the Pirk­le Jones Foun­da­tion. Now they are be­ing pre­sent­ed in their en­tire­ty for the first time in a stu­dio ex­hi­bi­tion in the mu­se­um’s pho­tog­ra­phy room. A Spo­ti­fy playlist will pro­vide vis­i­tors with a unique au­dio­vi­su­al ex­pe­ri­ence that will im­merse them in the at­mo­sphere of the time.

Ruth-Mari­on Baruch (1922–1997) and Pirk­le Jones (1914–2009) met in 1946 in Ansel Adams’s pho­tog­ra­phy class at the Cal­i­for­nia School of Fine Arts. Three years lat­er, they mar­ried. Baruch had emi­grat­ed with her fam­i­ly from Ber­lin to New York in 1927, which saved them from per­se­cu­tion by the Nazis. Af­ter be­gin­n­ing her studies in En­glish and jour­nal­ism, she ul­ti­mate­ly came to pho­tog­ra­phy through her mas­ter’s th­e­sis on Ed­ward We­s­t­on. Jones had wit­nessed ra­cism and vi­o­lence in Louisia­na and In­dia­na. Thus, they both shared a shar­p­ened so­cial con­s­cious­ness, which is evi­dent in their works.

The cou­ple was dee­p­ly in­ter­est­ed in the hip­pie move­ment, which formed in their own back­yard: in 1967 Baruch fre­quent­ly visit­ed the Haight-Ash­bury neigh­bor­hood, the ori­gin and cen­ter of the al­ter­na­tive Flow­er Pow­er scene. The hip­pies’ pro­gram was vis­i­ble on ev­ery street corn­er: free love and drug use, peace­ful co­ex­is­tence in com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vi­d­u­al self-re­al­iza­tion—­far from cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­e­ty’s pres­sure to per­form. Jones was in­ter­est­ed in the house­boat com­mu­ni­ty Gate Five in Sausal­i­to, a group of free think­ers, artists, and dropouts whom he con­s­tant­ly ac­com­panied for more than two years.

Af­ter th­ese pro­jects, Baruch turned to pho­to­graph­ing the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, which dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed it­self from Martin Luther King’s non-vi­o­lent civ­il rights move­ment. Al­though ra­cial se­g­re­ga­tion had been of­fi­cial­ly abol­ished in 1964, re­al­i­ty was dif­fer­ent. With their ten-point pro­gram, the Black Pan­thers cont­in­ued to com­bat so­cial op­pres­sion and ex­ploi­ta­tion. They called for equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, work, and dig­ni­fied hous­ing, fair trials, and the end of ar­bi­trary po­lice bru­tal­i­ty. To com­bat the lat­ter, the Black Pan­thers ad­vo­cat­ed self-de­fense and did not op­pose the use of vi­o­lence. The press pre­sent­ed a marked­ly neg­a­tive pic­ture of the par­ty. With the aim of coun­ter­act­ing this one-di­men­sio­n­al im­age, Baruch ini­tial­ly planned the se­ries by her­self. Ul­ti­mate­ly it grew in­to a joint pro­ject with Pirk­le Jones when he was to drive her to the Black Pan­thers’ first de­mon­s­tra­tion and spon­ta­neous­ly de­cid­ed: “I’ll drive you there if you re­al­ly want to go, but then I’ll take my cam­era too.”


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