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?’
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.
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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