'Peter Sacks: Resistance' on view at the Rose Art Museum

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'Peter Sacks: Resistance' on view at the Rose Art Museum
Peter Sacks, Nelson Mandela, 2020-2022. Mixed media on paper. Courtesy of artist and Sperone Westwater, New York. Photography: Gary Mirando.

WALTHAM, MASS.- Peter Sacks: Resistance, the artist’s first solo museum show, is currently bieng presented by the Rose Art Museum since August 25, and will end at the end of this month on December 30th, 2022. An expatriate of South Africa, Sacks gained stature as a visual artist for his intricately layered and textural mixed-media compositions. Expanding the two-dimensional conventions of canvas paintings, Sacks has developed a personal language of heightened dimensionality and tactile delicacy through his particular material choices. Peter Sacks: Resistance presents over eighty never-before-seen portraits of individuals who have resisted political, racial, or cultural oppression over the past two centuries.

“The Rose is honored and thrilled to be hosting such an important and timely exhibition. Drawing from his anti-apartheid activism and multicultural experiences, Peter Sacks creates an inspiring cast of individuals—artists, writers, philosophers, and political activists from across the globe—who resisted oppression in various ways. Bold and layered portraits will confront viewers as a call to action inviting ethical responses to the brokenness of our world,” states Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator, the show’s curator.

Sacks created the portraits over the last two years. The subjects range from Nelson Mandela to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Rosa Parks to Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Each face is embedded in a tactile composition of fabric, paint, personal items, and texts, conveying a sense of their life, historical background, struggles, acts of resistance, imprisonment or exile, and, sometimes, their death.

The individuals portrayed hold special meaning for Sacks: “Many of these figures have inspired me over a lifetime, in ways at once intimate and public. I hope that they will do the same for viewers. My relation to most of these figures has been long and deep. My experiences in South Africa gave me more than enough exposure to political and racial oppression, but also gave me a persistent need for models of resistance.”

Additionally, the exhibition will include an audio collage of the voices of numerous contemporary literary, political, social, and cultural figures reading excerpts they chose from the resistors’ writings. The recording features the voices of Teju Cole, Carol Gilligan, John Kerry, Henry Louis Gates, Bill McKibben, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Claudia Rankine, Colm Tóibín, Elaine Scarry, Bryan Stevenson, and many others.

“Many of the portrayed individuals became each other’s powerful guides and sources of courage—as I hope they will become for those encountering them in the exhibition,” notes Sacks. “Ideally, the show conjures a community among its subjects. The hope is that it will also conjure a further community among its viewers.”

Peter Sacks: Resistance pays tribute to generations of resistors using the power of art to transmit their legacies to future generations. An opening celebration will be held on Wednesday, September 21, from 6–8 PM, and a variety of programs and workshops will be held in conjunction with the exhibition. The museum will also publish a fully illustrated catalogue of Sacks’s portraits.


An expatriate of South Africa, Peter Sacks (b. 1950, Port Elizabeth, South Africa) spent the first 19 years of his life in his home country in the eastern city of Durban. Sacks teaches at Harvard University and has also published several volumes of poetry. His artwork is in numerous private and public collections worldwide, including the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of

Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; The Collection of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Johannesburg; The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, Cambridge, MA; The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Oxford; and the Beyond Borders Foundation, Edinburgh.


Peter Sacks: Resistance is curated by Dr. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator and Professor of Fine Arts and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University.

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