True North

Rodney Taylor Untitled painting at Rochester Contemporary

According to Rodney Taylor’s notes, his painting explores the June night in 1872 when Frederick Douglas returned to Rochester after learning his family farm on South Avenue had burnt down in a suspected arson. It is my favorite piece in the new show at RoCo, a show that explores “The Living Legacy of Frederick Douglass” on two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Rochester’s most important figure.

The 1899 statue of Douglas, the one that used to be in front of the New York Central Train Station on the corner of St. Paul Street and Central Avenue and is currently in Highland Park, was the first statue dedicated to an African American in the United States. Later this year it will be moved again to spot closer to his old house.

Writing in his newspaper, The North Star, Douglas said, “While Rochester is among the most liberal of northern cities it nevertheless has its share of that Ku Klux Klan spirit which makes anything owned by a colored man a little less respected and secure than when owned by a white citizen.

Taylors painting is shows what was left of the house. Nothing but the horror.

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