Historically, icons are devotional and meant for praise, or to represent ideals or act as role models for a mass audience. This was the case for the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and the Harlem Renaissance painter, Jacob Lawrence. Each, an icon in his own right and era, delivered uplifting images of possibility for the black body.
In a time when images are validated as rapidly as they are created; in a time when our role models continuously fail, and deviate from the exact ideals society associates with them, it is important to step back to consider what is at stake: what happens when the image flips; the icon vilified, destroyed? F. Douglas Brown, inspired by Lawrence’s 1938 panel series, which observes both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, brings ICON, a biographical/poetic reflection doing the task of considering and reconsidering role models, heroes. Through conversations with poets, pop stars, comic book sensations, and of course, the historical characters Douglass, Tubman and Lawrence, Brown distills this discussion into an examination of the self.
ICON offers a baroque reflection of ourselves through our own personal histories, and how it might pertain to the global history at large. For F. Douglas Brown, who is named after Frederick Douglass, the implications of those histories connecting are abundant, wrought with vulnerability, interrogation and a call to action.