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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2020, A Tribute to David C. Driskell: Part 5, “Prowl” by Jefferson Pinder

Jefferson Pinder, artist and professor of sculpture and director of academic affairs for diversity, equity, and inclusion, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Jefferson Pinder’s work provides evocative commentary on race and forms of struggle. He aims to investigate aspects of personal identity through the materials of neon, found objects, performance, and video. From uncanny video portraits using popular music to durational works that put the black body in motion, his practice offers an exploration of the physical conditions that reveal emotional responses. Pinder creates space for observers to directly confront the contemporary, material consequences of racial oppression in the United States. On September 17, 2020, in honor of the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art: A Tribute to David C. Driskell, Pinder premiered a new performance piece that speaks to his interest in bodies in motion in this time of social distancing and protest. In Prowl, black and brown drivers slowly circle through a historically white Chicago neighborhood in which many police officers call home, the choreography of their vehicles documented by people on foot. The work hopes to spark conversation about propriety of space and to embody ideas of surveillance.


Pinder was Driskell’s assistant (1999–2003) and the first Fellowship Recipient in Art from the David C. Driskell Center (2002–2003). The fourth annual symposium was held in partnership with the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. This performance was made possible by a grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.