Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Amadou Diallo, 2009. Woodcut on paper. 36 × 24 in. Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase, 2009.89

Black Matters

July 6, 2020 - October 11, 2020

Graphics Gallery

In 2009, Matthew Wead created a series of prints woodcuts titled Shooting Targets. Each print is based on real individuals who were killed or injured by police officers or armed vigilantes. Most of the perpetrators were later exonerated. These artworks are his way of confronting a system that is intended to protect everyone yet has subjugated and brutalized so many, and to remind everyone that Black matters.

Wead used himself as the model for each print. His poses were an attempt to capture the emotion of the victim right before the moment of violence. According to the artist, the figures look at us “to show another point of view and maybe strike empathy upon the audience—to make them think about how they would react in the similar situation.” Although this was not meant to be a continuing series, he explains that it has now become a never-ending and daunting task. He has recently added Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor to the series.

From the Artist

"On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death and after a while that does something to your psyche. It's literally saying, ‘black people, you might be next. You will be next.’ But in hindsight it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be - Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter

The intention of this series grew out of the pain he felt hearing, seeing, and reading about the unnecessary brutal force enacted on to these victims. To peer into their eyes was to show another point of view—to maybe strike empathy in the audience—and to allow them to think about how they would react in a similar situation. The title of the series, Shooting Targets, came from the reckless abandon that has been shown and addressed to black people, in both the interactions and then the aftermath, as an afterthought. Black people have become target practice, thrown away, and erased when the next news cycle hits. There is a repetition in the process of killing us without any repercussions for doing so, and sometimes being rewarded to do so. 

This was not meant to be a continuing series—it has now become a never-ending and daunting task. While this is meant to serve from the perspective of the artist, his statement is to look into the eyes of Black queer, trans, and all Black lives that are subjugated and brutalized under a system that was meant to protect them. Unfortunately, there are countless examples that could be included in this series—never to completion—and seems that it will never end in our lifetimes.

Live Q & A 

Please join us Wednesday, August 19, at 6:00pm (EDT) for a live Q&A with artist Matthew Owen Wead and Tracee Glab, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, as they discuss Wead's exhibition Black Matters, featuring woodblock prints based on real individuals killed by police officers or armed vigilantes. You are invited to submit your questions in advance here. There will be an opportunity to submit live questions during the program, and these will be addressed time permitting. If you miss the live stream, a recorded version will be available shortly afterward.

Submit a Question

From the Exhibition

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Sean Bell, 2009. Woodcut on paper, 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.100

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Michael Pleasance, 2009. Woodcut on paper, 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.98

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Johnny Gammage, 2009. Woodcut on paper, Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.99

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Ronald Madison, 2009. Woodcut on paper, 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.96

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Kiehl Coppin, 2009. Woodcut on paper. 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.97

  • Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Fred Hampton, 2009. Woodcut on paper, 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm) Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase 2009.94