One of the most valuable functions of socially conscious art is its power to personalize and humanize what can easily become an abstraction. This power was evident again and again at BAILA con Duende, a recent Los Angeles exhibition featuring the works of seventy-four black artists.

A strong strain of social commentary ran through the exhibition, with many of the artists addressing issues of racism in their works. For example, in a 2011 photograph that focuses on the martyred fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, photographer George Evans reintroduces the iconic image of Till’s unspeakably mutilated, disfigured body following his 1955 murder in Mississippi. After authorities retrieved Till’s body from the Tallahatchie River, it was sent back to Chicago for the funeral. His mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open casket, declaring, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” Jet Magazine...

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