Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation is the first major retrospective devoted to the groundbreaking West Coast video artist Ulysses Jenkins (b. 1946, Los Angeles; lives in Los Angeles.) Jenkins’s body of work, which spans from the 1970s to the present, has consistently interrogated questions of race and gender as they relate to ritual, history, and the power of the state. From his work with Video Venice News, a Los Angeles media collective he founded in the early 1970s, to his involvement with the artists’ group Studio Z (alongside figures such as David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, and Maren Hassinger), to his individual video and performance works, Jenkins explicitly comments on how white supremacy is embedded in popular culture.
Beginning as a painter and muralist, Jenkins was introduced to video just as the first consumer cameras were made available to individuals, and he quickly seized upon the television technology as a means to broadcast alternative and critical depictions of multiculturalism—citing the catalyst of Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) and its call to Black filmmakers to control their subject-hood by controlling the media depicting them. Adopting the role of a “video griot,” Jenkins draws upon the inspiration of oral traditions in videos that are often structured around music and poetic recitation, as well as dynamic performances.
This fully illustrated catalog—the first dedicated to Jenkin’s oeuvre—features an extensive portion of Jenkins archive, early documentary films, photographs, and ephemera as well as the video art from the past 45 years. Presenting scholarly essays, a roundtable discussion, and reflections from collaborators, historians, and artists, this publication provides an comprehensive view of Jenkins’ diverse career.