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February 04, 2021

Acquisition: Howardena Pindell, "Free, White and 21"

Howardena Pindell, "Free, White and 21"

Howardena Pindell
Free, White and 21, 1980
single-channel video with sound, color, 12:15 minutes
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Garth Greenan
2020.20.1
Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

The Gallery has acquired Free, White and 21 (1980) by Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), the first video by the artist to enter the collection. Given by Garth Greenan, it joins one early work on paper, three prints, and a promised gift of one of her highly textured collaged canvases comprised of hole-punched paper dots.

Pindell made her influential video Free, White and 21 following a car accident in 1979 that left her with partial memory loss. In the video, Pindell faces the camera and recounts her personal experiences of racism as an African American woman in America. Throughout the video, she adds to or takes away materials from her head and face, concealing and revealing the social construct of race based on skin color. These segments alternate with footage of Pindell—dressed as white woman with a blond wig, skin-lightening makeup, and sunglasses—responding to her own testimonials with victim-blaming statements. The video concludes with Pindell's white character stating unapologetically, "You must really be paranoid. I've never had an experience like that. But, then, I'm free, white, and 21."

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