New Ford Foundation Gallery exhibition to celebrate Art for Justice Fund

James Yaya Hough, Untitled, 2008-2016. Paper, colored pencil, 8 1/2in x 11in.
Courtesy of James Yaya Hough, JTT Gallery and Ford Foundation Gallery

The Ford Foundation Gallery — an innovative arts space within the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice — is celebrating the work and legacy of the Art for Justice (A4J) Fund as it enters its final phase of grantmaking with the launch of its new exhibition called “No Justice Without Love.”

The A4J Fund hopes to change the narrative of criminal justice reform using art. It aligns artists, advocates and allied donors to transform the criminal legal system and seek an end to mass incarceration.

A4J was founded by Agnes Gund and launched in 2017 with $100 million generated by the sale of Agnes’ favorite painting called “Masterpiece” by Roy Lichtenstein. This spurred artists, advocates and collectors to donate an additional $25 million to support the Fund.

With the support of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) and the Ford Foundation, A4J has continued its mission and capitalized on its momentum as a time-limited six-year fund to support over 200 artists and arts and advocacy groups. By this coming June, the Fund will have allocated more than $125 million to the field.

“No Justice Without Love” hopes to reflect on the possibilities of a future where safety is shared and available to all by showcasing the voices, experiences and artistic practices of individuals most directly affected by the nation’s criminal justice system.

The exhibit features works from members of the A4J community, including formerly incarcerated artists, allies and former and current grantees who have been invited to express how A4J has impacted their practice. These works, including those from Benny Andrews, Maria Gaspar, James Yaya Hough, Julie Mehretu and more, will be showcased alongside activations from artistic partnerships like The Writing on the Wall — a collaboration between visual artist Hank Willis Thomas, activist Dr. Baz Dreisinger, and the Incarceration Nations Network.

“As part of this exhibition, we want to recognize our community of A4J donors,” said RPA president and CEO Melissa Berman. “Inspired by Agnes Gund’s transformative gift, over 250 donors – including artists, art collectors, family foundation, corporate donors and other individuals – gave generously to expand A4J’s impact. We at RPA are invigorated by the strong response from the philanthropic community to advance this work during A4J’s lifespan and into the future.”

The exhibit was curated by Daisy Desrosiers, director and chief curator of Gund Gallery at Kenyon College.

“‘No Justice Without Love’ speaks to the many ways art connects, heals and binds us together. This exhibition is a testament to the power of art to make visible the injustices of mass incarceration,” said Gund. “Through her curatorial vision, Daisy Desrosiers has captured the rich, expansive spirit of our community of artists and advocates by weaving together those in the movement who came before us, those who are with us now and those who will continue to reimagine justice in the future.”

The exhibit opens on April 4 with a public opening from 6-8 p.m. featuring a performance by musician, composer and artist Paul Rucker. It will be available to view at Ford Foundation Gallery located at 320 E 43rd St. through June 30.

“This exhibit is a thoughtful culmination of the powerful, impactful work that Agnes Gund and the Art for Justice Fund have brought to life in the past six years,” said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. “As we celebrate the Fund’s ongoing legacy and momentum, we hope viewers will witness deeply the power of art and advocacy to create empathy, to question harmful narratives about incarceration and to draw light to society’s biggest inequalities.”

Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about the exhibition, visit fordfoundation.org