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Art exhibition at Brooklyn Public Library asks, ‘What Kind of House Does a Man Who Has Lived in a 6 x 9-Foot Cell for Over 30 Years Dream Of?’

April 14, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A model of the dream house that Wallace designed will be on display in the Central Library’s Grand Lobby. Images: Copyright Jackie Sumell, courtesy of BPL
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In 2003, visual artist Jackie Sumell asked Herman Wallace, a Black Panther activist and member of the Angola Three who had been kept in solitary confinement for more than 30 years, via letter: “What kind of house does a man who has lived in a 6×9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?”

Their exchange resulted in a collaboration that transformed both of their lives and produced an internationally renowned exhibition, book and documentary film.

The exhibition, titled “#76759: Featuring the House That Herman Built,” will open at the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) on April 15 and will remain on view through June 5. In conjunction with the opening, a screening of the film “Herman’s House” will take place April 16 at 7 p.m. at BPL’s Central Library (10 Grand Army Plaza), the same location where the exhibition is housed.

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In 2013, Amnesty International called for Wallace’s release on humanitarian grounds after he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. After spending more than four decades in solitary confinement — longer than anyone in the history of the American penal system — Wallace was released on Oct. 1, 2013, at the age of 71. He died just three days later.

Included in BPL’s exhibition are a life-sized replica of Wallace’s prison cell, selections from his correspondence with Sumell, books from his reading list, and, in Central Library’s Grand Lobby, a model of the dream house that he designed. 

The exhibition will open with a reception in the Dweck Center Lobby on the lower level of Central Library on April 15. Additional “#76759” programming will include panel discussions, film screenings and other special events.



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