“Things Well Worth Waiting For” is a small-scale, deeply comprehensive exhibition that transports you to a different time where women wore flamboyant dresses, men drove classic cars, segregation prevailed, and the power of soul music was palpable. Photojournalist and activist Kwame Brathwaite was there, documenting it all—in words and in photographs.
Occupying two galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition provides insight into over 70 years of Brathwaite’s work, through photographs, magazines, albums, and color slides from the 1960s to the 1980s, many of which are on view for the first time in decades. Here Bob Marley’s performance at the Wonder Dream concert in Kingston, Jamaica, and Stevie Wonder’s Zaire ’74, a music festival organized alongside the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, all come to life.
Passionate about music, Brathwaite traveled far and wide to review performances for publications—from the UK’s Blues & Soul to Japan’s Adlib. More than the energy of the headliners, he captured the social and cultural dynamics of his time. Importantly, he showed Black culture at its essence. Immersed in the inner-workings of the entertainment industry (he was a musician and event organizer), he never shied away from documenting the everyday. African diaspora-inspired fashion, natural hairstyles, and statement jewelry were widely featured in his work, serving as a means to social change, equity, and liberation. In an effort to deconstruct the ideology of white aesthetics, he ignited the radical “Black is Beautiful” movement.
Titled after the headline Brathwaite wrote for his review of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life, “Things Well Worth Waiting For” encapsulates the 1970s as a period of risk and uncertainty, but also opportunity and a powerful beacon for change.
“Kwame Brathwaite: Things Well Worth Waiting For”
Through 7/24: Mon 11 AM-5 PM, Thu 11 AM-8 PM, Fri-Sun 11 AM-5 PM, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan, artic.edu/exhibitions, adults $25 ($35 Fast Pass, $22 Illinois residents, $20 Chicago residents), seniors 65+, students, and teens 14-17 $19 ($29 Fast Pass, $16 Illinois residents, $14 Chicago residents), children under 14 free
I was a reporter at the St. Petersburg Times in 1980, when St. Pete got the idea of turning itself into Salvador Dalíwood. Not everyone was on board: on the one hand, there were grumbles about Dalí’s apparent tolerance for fascism (including a cozy long-term relationship with Franco), and on the other, sneering art-world objections…
Thinking of us
Barbara Kruger, collagist, conceptual artist, and Futura Bold Oblique font savant, will turn 77 two days after her exhibition “THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU.” closes at the Art Institute of Chicago on January 24. The expansive exhibition, which opened in September after being delayed almost a year by COVID-19 concerns, is…
Reckoning with life
I rarely read wall labels in art exhibitions as I find the verbiage gets in the way of my experience. My goal is to have a one-on-one reckoning with what I’m looking at without someone else’s words confusing or directing my reaction. The curators of this survey of some 250 sculptures, masks, and ornaments from…