Motown to Def Jam is an interdisciplinary, multi-gallery exhibition celebrating African-American Music Appreciation Month. Over 40 visual artists pay tribute to socially conscious music created by recording artists from Chess, Stax, Motown, Philadelphia International and Def Jam Records.
Through the lens of contemporary art, each song is interpreted as a visual statement to tell the story of African-American and the broader American history from the beginning of Chess Records in 1950 to the current era of Def Jam. Artists delve into issues such as racism, poverty, self-identity, gender equality, the prison-industrial complex, war, environmental justice and more, as sang in the songs represented here that collectively created the soundtrack for social, political, economic and spiritual revolution.
At La Maison d’Art we present Respect Yourself focusing on art inspired by the Chess and Stax catalogs. Chess Records, founded in Chicago in 1950 by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess is renowned as the pioneering home for rock ’n’ roll, the blues and R&B. Stax, originally known as Satellite in 1959, was founded in Memphis by Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton. In 1961 the label adopted its new name and became the universal signifier of Southern soul music at its grittiest, rawest and most visceral.
The title for this satellite exhibition comes from the classic 1970s song by The Staple Singers (distributed via Stax), which is a timeless anthem of empowerment, respect and self-awareness.
With the various works on display each artist challenges us to not only hear the message in the music but to see it too.