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Artist James Pate’s Provocative Exhibition at CAU Art Gallery

By Tianna Faulkner | 1/31/2014, 10:23 a.m.
It is not about what whites or what other races have done to harm or oppress African Americans, it’s about ...
Pate expresses his frustration through beautiful and thought provoking illustrations about black-on-black crime in America. His series “Arms Race to Embrace, KKK,” now showing at the Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery, is an empowering and enlightening combination of art pieces for the Atlanta community to experience.

It is not about what whites or what other races have done to harm or oppress African Americans, it’s about what African Americans have been doing to hurt themselves that troubles visual artist James Pate.

Pate expresses his frustration through beautiful and thought provoking illustrations about black-on-black crime in America. His series “Arms Race to Embrace, KKK,” now showing at the Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery, is an empowering and enlightening combination of art pieces for the Atlanta community to experience.

KKK is mostly known as the acronym for Klu Klux Klan, America’s white terrorist organization. In this instance “KKK” stands for “Kin Killin’ Kin”, representing the countless number of deaths among young African American men killing themselves, each other, or innocent victims.

Although African Americans are still subjected to racial violence and profiling, black-on-black crime in America has been a detrimental and serious issue in the black community for the past several decades.

Fortunately on a more positive note, countless individuals and organizations, including Pate are seeking to make a difference in decreasing the high crime rate in the black community.

Pate, a very talented and self-taught African American artist, created “KKK” in 2000 and he has continued to add to the series ever since. The name of the series came from an Ohio Rapper B-Ron who saw and admired Pate’s artwork.

“Adolf Jackson,” RIP African American,” “Your History II,” “Turn of Endearment,” and his favorite piece “Defenders of the Corner,” depict images and visuals of young black men in Klu Klux Klan attire and paraphernalia aiming guns at themselves, other black men, and innocent bystanders. The visuals in the series are influenced from today’s Hip Hop culture and African-American’s history, including Egyptian empires, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement.

“Art can move people into those kinds of places,” said Pate about his series. “’Kin Killin Kin’ is a series that sort of reflects the tragedy of black-on-black crime in the black community.”

“I used the metaphor of the Klu Klux Klan and illustrate how that looks with the perpetrators dressed up in traditional Klan garments acting out this violence,” he said.

In addition to Pate’s series, there are other works of art in the CAU gallery that demonstrate the black struggle and show photos and illustrations of actual Klu Klux Klan members.

Pate said he just kept creating the pieces, despite the fact that black-on-black crime shows no signs of ebbing.

“It (Kin Killin Kin) is sort of like my own private protest and I’m going to continue to do them,” he said.

The scene at the CAU gallery depicts that of a crime scene. Pate said through his pieces he is throwing a tantrum and having a fit. Because Pate has a great love for the black community, his message through the art pieces is to get individuals, mainly African American males to think about what they are doing and to change their ways.

“Here’s what not to do, look within, look at the greatness of your history, recognize the sacrifices that have been put forth you to be able to walk down the street so that a white person could have leeway,” said Pate.

“This is a representation of what we do here at the Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery,” said Director Tina Dunkley about Pate’s work.

“I love my people,” said Pate, whose hero is a Harriett Tubman, a former slave who created the historic underground railroad. “I feel such hurt for the people who have to directly deal with that. I don’t want their feelings to be forgotten.”

The “Arms Race to Embrace, KKK” exhibit will be on display at the Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery through March 7, 2014. For more information about the exhibit, visit the CAU art Gallery in Trevor Arnett or contact 404-880-6012.