Sam Durant’s ‘End White Supremacy’ Illuminates Outside Paula Cooper Gallery

The words are still frightfully relevant today.

© Sam Durant. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York Photo: EPW Studio

Though the slogan originates from a sign used in a 1963 protest, the words “End White Supremacy” still ring painfully true today. Artist Sam Durant has taken note.

Drawn from his Electric Signs series of lightboxes, Durant’s 2008 work End White Supremacy is an eight-by-eleven foot red glowing lightbox that is now displayed above the entrance to New York’s Paula Cooper Gallery.

Durant’s work often uses lightboxes that employ the language of protests, particularly slogans from the Civil Rights Movement and Black Panthers protests. For each work, he scours archival images from demonstrations and selects slogans from banners found in the various photographs. He then scans the photos with the signs, crops and enlarges the text, and creates the final product.

As described on the artist’s website, “The photo should contain an image of a hand made sign and the text or message on the sign should be general in nature. The message should not refer to any specific event, cause, person or time.” As such, the words Durant selects for his lightboxes are essentially timeless, and in this case, sadly applicable in a contemporary context.

Sam Durant, End White Supremacy (2008) © Sam Durant. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Sam Durant, End White Supremacy (2008) ©Sam Durant. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

This is not the first time the lightbox has hung on the facade of Paula Cooper’s West Chelsea gallery. In 2008, the same sign was hung during the presidential campaign that eventually led to President Obama’s election as the first black president in US history, after which the sign was then taken down.

Following President-elect Trump’s victory in November, gallery director Steve Henry asked Durant for permission to reinstall the lightbox. “I said yes,” Durant recounted to Hyperallergic. “In the words of the immortal Eduardo Galeano, ‘History never ends, I hate to remind you.’”

At the moment, there is no scheduled end date for the installation, emphasizing the pervasive sense of uncertainty following the controversial election.

“We should, as spaces available and open to the public, do whatever we can to resist and overcome whatever abominations are about to confront us,” gallery owner Paula Cooper told Hyperallergic. “How we best do that is the question.”

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