Southern Agenda

Unbridled History

Last year, when Donovan Johnson, the executive director of the Bill Lowe Gallery in Atlanta, visited the studio of Georgia artist Todd Murphy, who had died in 2020, to discuss hosting a retrospective on the visionary’s career, one work stopped him in his tracks: a digital painting of the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame jockey Jimmy Winkfield and his horse, Murphy’s nod to the heroic achievements of Black jockeys. That painting and more than thirty other never-before-seen sculptures, found objects, and digital paintings became Wink, an exhibition examining the history and legacy of Black jockeys in America, opening at the gallery on October 7. Along one wall, a peplum dress billows over a film projection of a race, reminiscent of the 2.11-second-long 1878 film of a Black jockey riding a galloping steed, widely considered the first film ever made. “Todd had the ability to synthesize the zeitgeist in a unique way,” Johnson says. “It’s redemptive and beautiful.”