Chandler’s Art Is So In-Your-Face Powerful, It Forces Reflection

Left: “The Beast,” 1967. Right: “The Beast Revisited,” 1987. Both 4x6ft, Acrylic on Homasote. These two images, created 20 years apart, represent separate incidences of violence by white supremacist nationalists during their anti-black counter protests. The first happened in during the “Cicero March” in Chicago, IL in 1966. The second violent outbreak by white racists was during a march honoring the first Martin Luther King’s birthday national holiday in Forsyth, GA in 1987. Chandler’s point is vicious, racist extremism resulting in acts of bloody bestiality gets passed from generation to generation, and the same anti-black protests happen everywhere in America like the one in Charlottesville, VA in 2017 shows.

Chandler’s art always has focused on the theme, “black lives matter” and he is thrilled to see a new generation take up the cause he and his contemporaries led for several decades.

The image above reflects Chandler’s role in the civil rights activism in of the 1960s through the 80s. The paintings in the image, “The Beast” (1967) and the “The Beast Revisited,” (1987), show Chandler’s art still resonates today. The pieces, inspired by anti-black protesters attending black-led civil rights events, were painted 20 years apart to show that white power ideology and the violence that it spawns gets passed from one generation to the next. 

Nearly 30 years after he painted the 1987 piece, the intergenerational racial hatred in America still continues to show in the United States. Just read today’s news, and social media feeds, that display everything from everyday microaggressions people of color, especially black people, experience to significant incidents of racial violence by police and white nationalists. 

Most recently, that showed in Charlottesville, VA when hoards of white nationalists celebrating their victory in helping get elected one of the America’s most overtly racist presidents in recent history. They descended on the University of Virginia, founded by one of America’s most white supremacist president, Thomas Jefferson, to preserve both racist monuments on that campus and white power in America.

One of their race soldiers later committed vehicular homicide and two law enforcement officers lost their lives responding to the violence their presence led to during their campus invasion.

But, they had been inspired by the man they shouted the Nazi salute, “Hail!” to at the event. He had given them the clearest messages possible he would defend white supremacy and violence against people of color, especially black people, under his presidency. They had watched violence committed by other racist supporters of the virulently then-candidate, Donald Trump against black protesters at his pre-election rallies.

Trump, the GOP front-runner in the 2016 presidential election, appeared to be inciting a race war as he boldly instigated racial violence during his election rally speeches. His supporters responded with increased brutality against protesters of color, especially black Americans. 

One highly visible example of that hostile response to a Trump-racialized speech came from a fan of the reality television celebrity, 78-year-old John McGraw. McGraw, sucker-punched 26-year-old black protester, Raheem Jones in the face as Jones local sheriffs escorted him out of a Trump rally in North Carolina. Initially, those sheriffs wrestled a justifiably angry Jones to the ground, cuffed him, and dragged him out of the venue while they allowed McGraw to remain at the event unmolested by police. McGraw boldly asserted that he might have to murder the young man if he saw him again.

The message to America, particularly African Americans, was clear: black lives don’t matter as long as white supremacists don’t believe they do. White (nationalism) is always right and allowed to prevail violently over black bodies, even murderously.

Unlike most others he’s made, Trump has kept this promise to condone racially charged violence to prevail without consequence in America. In fact, he appears to encourage and support the activity like he did on the campaign trail.

Yet, when he painted these images, observers frequently insisted that Chandler was overstating the problem of racial violence in this country. However, it’s impossible to exaggerate the problem in today’s America. More than ever, Chandler’s works force reflection because what they depict isn’t ancient history; it’s America’s current character.

What’s most unfortunate about that truth is it’s likely that a generation from now, these works still will resonate in America. Then, Chandler will be remembered as a pioneering artist whose art depicted America’s malignant racist white nationalism with such powerful clarity.

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