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How the cops murdered Amadou

Review by Eva Woods Peiró | February 24, 2006 | Page 13

Amadou Diallo: His Life and Death in Art. At the Casa Frela Gallery in New York City through February 28.

ON FEBRUARY 4, 1999, 41 shots were heard around the world.

Amadou Diallo, a West African immigrant, was riddled by bullets shot by four white policemen who had cornered him in a hallway that measured only seven feet by five feet wide. Although Amadou's death would spark massive public protests, police brutality would continue to exterminate the lives of young men of African descent while those not killed in the streets would be sent to Iraq to be mutilated or blown to pieces.

These were the thoughts that inspired Lawrence Rodríguez, curator of the art exhibit Amadou Diallo: His Life and Death in Art. Featuring the work of 10 artists, this mixed media show begins with Jim Carroll's photographic documentation of Amadou's funeral and the gestures of pain transmitted through close-ups of hands and faces. Eric Alugas' paintings on unmounted "skins" of canvas are the most powerful pieces in the group.

In "Stand-up Please!" a black halo in the form of a coffin enshrouds Amadou's perforated body. This black aura represents both the racial and psychological "black thing," as Alugas puts it, the fear motivating the shooting and a pointed reference to the black wallet that was confused for a gun. The blackness also echoes the motivation behind the death of Medgar Evers and the beating of Rodney King, whom Alugas has also rendered on canvas.

Additionally displayed are the collages of Katrina Jeffries that trace Amadou's life journey from West Africa to the United States, superimposed by a settee of 41 cowie shells.

Finally of note, Malcah Zeldis' powerful folk painting portrays the vestibule as an altar upon which Amadou is sacrificed.

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