The University of New Orleans- St. Claude Gallery will present "#ReHumanize, for Albert Woodfox" for its August exhibition. The exhibition is dedicated to Albert Woodfox, who has spent more than four decades in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Woodfox is the only member of the group collectively known as "The Angola 3" who has not been released from prison.
The exhibition, by artists Jackie Sumell and Devin Reynolds, will hold its opening on Saturday, August 8 from 6-8 p.m. It will run from Aug. 8 to Sept. 7.
Woodfox was assigned the prison number #72148 when he was 23 years old. Now 68, Woodfox's prison identification number corresponds with the commercial SKU number of an insulated thermos by Makita. According to Sumell and Reynolds, "#ReHumanize" utilizes art to tell the real stories of real prisoners, born with real family names and replaced and reduced to assignment by number. The artists say they have juxtaposed those actual prison numbers that have systemically replaced individual identities with their corresponding identical SKU numbers used for inventory tracking of commercial commodities and objects. They say they have illustrated the collision point where society allows the language of punishment to intersect with the marketed vocabulary of profit.
Woodfox, Robert Hillary King and Herman Wallace were sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1971 after being convicted of armed robbery. In 1972, Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of stabbing a prison guard. King was linked to the crime but never charged. Their cases have been the subject of two documentaries and have drawn international attention from activists who point out that there is no evidence tying the three men to the crime.
King was freed in 2001 after his conviction in the killing of a fellow inmate was overturned. Wallace was released in 2013 after a judge vacated his murder conviction and sentence, but died days later of liver cancer. In 2014, a federal appeals court overturned Woodfox's conviction but his release has been delayed and he remains incarcerated.
Here is the artists' description of the exhibition: "'#ReHumanize' is an art exhibition designed to provide greater public understanding of the for-profit commercialized and dehumanized American prison system. It hopes to introduce conversations around the corporatization of incarceration, its inherent cruelties and ineffectiveness. If you allow profit-driven institutions to be in charge of human capital, as was true with chattel slavery and is now true with in the prison industrial complex, there is no possibility for justice, equality or reform because the goals are not the same. Through this exhibition, we ask you to imagine a world without prisons and to begin to dream of ways to better insure public safety and well-being without the need to simply dehumanize and punish. What can we learn from global best practices to re-educate and re-engage? Our hope is that you the viewer of any age will emerge moved to work for greater justice and beneficial reform."
The UNO-St. Claude Gallery is located at 2429 St. Claude Ave. in New Orleans.