In 2011, Gregory Sale launched It’s not just black and white as a three-month residency exhibition that considered the complex cultural, social and personal issues at stake in the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system in Arizona. It’s not just black and white was the sixth in the ASU Art Museum's Social Studies series which explores process-oriented context by literally bringing the studio into the museum. An installation of black-and-white-striped walls, created in collaboration with inmates, operated as a site for visual and mediated exhibitions, dance and other staged events, public forums, workshops and readings.
From a panel discussion on Considering Matters of Visual Culture and Incarceration with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to a talk on Education or Incarceration? The Future of Democracy by activist Angela Davis, stakeholder partners helped organize a total of fifty-two events. These activities engaged incarcerated men and women and their families as well as victims’ families, parolees, correctional officers, elected officials, government employees, journalists and scholars. Thirty-seven institutional partners and nearly 20,000 museum visitors participated.
Sale and his collaborators created something akin to a demilitarized zone. The museum served as a site for civic dialogue in a community that is marked by political extremes. It’s not just black and white was both an event and a conceptual statement for reflection and analysis. It opened up a novel context for recognizing the complexity of a social and political problem and a way of seeing it anew. The intent was twofold: 1) to explore and expose the many, often-conflicting viewpoints, perspectives and values that arise from thoughtful considerations of justice and public safety; and 2) to create connections that would be sustainable after the duration of the residency exhibition.
It’s not just black and white received support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.