Spike Lee: Creative Forces ***** @ The Brooklyn Museum
By: Paulanne Simmons
October 7, 2023: Spike Lee is one of the most influential and controversial of American film directors, the winner of an Academy Award, a Student Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Award and two Peabody Awards. But for many Brooklynites, what’s most important is that the Brooklyn-raised director is one of their own. So it is entirely fitting that The Brooklyn Museum has created Spike Lee: Creative Forces, an immersive installation that allows visitors to get a glimpse into Lee’s personal and professional world.
Organized by Kimberli Gant, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, with Indira A. Abiskaroon, Curatorial Assistant, Modern and Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum, the exhibit is organized around themes of Black American history and culture, Brooklyn, sports, music, cinema history, and family, all of which have had a profound influence on Lee’s work. And, of course, there are lots of film clips. But even more important the over 350 objects in the installation show the visitor what was personally important to Lee.
Thus we see numerous photographs of Lee and his siblings, parents, and grandparents; a commissioned painting by Kehinde Wiley that honors the legacy of Brooklyn Dodgers player Jackie Robinson, the first Black American to play in Major League Baseball; tennis rackets that belonged to Arthur Ashe and Serena Williams; works by prominent African American artists, signed movie posters; Prince’s “Love Symbol” guitar and a saxophone signed by Branford Marsalis.
What becomes obvious as we make our way through this installation is that Lee himself was an avid collector with an eclectic taste. He accumulated everything from a racist cigarette holder to Tim Okamura’s portrait of Toni Morrison for Time Magazine. From the last photo of Carol Denise McNair, one of the four girls murdered in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on September, 15 1963 to Richard Avedon’s photograph of Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra as Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit on the set of Guys and Dolls.
Spike Lee: Creative Forces may be our best opportunity to get a true understanding of this creative genius. But it also gives visitors a broad picture of African American, and indeed American culture from the days of Jim Crow to our own time.
The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.
SpikeLee, 2023. (Photo:©JamelShabazz