REVISED HOURS: Please note that the final day of this exhibition will be Thursday, March 12, 2020. Gallery will be open from 10 AM – 8:30 PM.

In conjunction with the day-long symposium “William Greaves: Psychodrama, Interruption, and Circulation,” the Program in Visual Arts presents an exhibition centered on the work of William Greaves, a key figure in American filmmaking. Entitled “William Greaves — Sondra Perry — Martine Syms,” the exhibition includes works by Greaves and internationally renowned artists Martine Syms and Sondra Perry, both of whom are working in the vein of his legacy.

The symposium and exhibition is organized by artists Fia Backström and Martine Syms.

Presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts and cosponsored by Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies, Department of Art and Archaeology, Program in Media + Modernity, and the John Sacret Young ’69 Lecture Series Fund.




william greaves serious expression in black jacket

Filmmaker William Greaves. Photo courtesy William Greaves Productions

Until its recent discovery in a Pittsburgh warehouse (amidst thousands of films abandoned when the WRS laboratory went bankrupt), William Greaves’ original cut of Nationtime—Gary (1972) was assumed to have been lost. Found and restored by IndieCollect forty-seven years after the National Black Political Convention took place in Gary, Indiana, the original full-length film documenting the historic event can now be seen. Filmmaker Greaves (1926-2014), the producer/director of Nationtime, was approached by Amiri Baraka about the possibility of filming the convention. Baraka, along with Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr., and Mayor Richard M. Hatcher of Gary, Indiana, co-convened the convention. There was no money available in the budget but recognizing the significance of the event, Greaves took up the challenge, put together a three-camera crew, and spent three days covering the event, which he later edited.

The film is part of an important and extraordinarily diverse body of work that Greaves produced over the course of a 50-year career.  It includes Emmy-nominated breakthrough films such as Still a Brother, Inside the Negro Middle Class (1967),  as well as sponsored documentaries like In the Company of Men (1968) which used early innovative techniques such as psychodrama.  In the Company of Men is being shown in conjunction with the symposium at Princeton. Greaves’ pioneering work earned him numerous national and international film festival awards, including a 1968 Emmy as executive producer of Black Journal, the first Black-produced nationally broadcast TV series in America.

Unable to get into the industry that was closed to African Americans, Greaves left America in 1952 and spent almost a decade in Canada. He worked for many years on the staff of the National Film Board, where he eventually became chief editor of the internationally recognized award-winning Unit B and, in 1958, produced, directed and edited, Emergency Ward, one of the earliest cinema verite films ever made. But by 1963, the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to open doors to African Americans in the media. Greaves had always planned to return to the United States. The time had now come for him, as a filmmaker with years of training and experience, to play role in telling the story of the African American’s centuries-long struggle for freedom and equality. He returned to America in 1963 and set to work documenting the struggles that were taking place at a critical period in American history.  Out of this came the films The First World Festival of Negro Arts (1966), Still a Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class (1968) and From These Roots (1973).  From These Roots, the first documentary about the Harlem Renaissance, is considered an African American Studies classic. He is best known for his early use of  cinema verite, psychodrama, and split screen techniques — all of which are exemplified by Symbiopsychotaxiplasm:Take One (1968), which is now listed in the Registry of American film at the Library of Congress.


perry smiles by blue blackground hands on hipsSONDRA PERRY earned her MFA from Columbia University (2015) and a BFA from Alfred University (2012). In 2017, she was awarded the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize from the Seattle Art Museum, which culminated in the exhibition, Eclogue for[in]HABITABILITY. Perry’s solo exhibitions include Typhoon coming on, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, UK (2018); Chromatic Saturation, Disjecta, Portland, OR (2018); Sondra Perry: flesh out, Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo, NY (2017); and Resident Evil, The Kitchen, New York (2016). Selected group exhibitions include The Body Electric, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2018); Family Pictures, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (2018); Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston, MA (2018); We Just Fit, You and I, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Cambridge, MA (2017); Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn (2016); and Greater New York, MoMA PS1, Long Island City (2015). Spanning the last five years, Perry has screened her videos and presented talks at institutions including the Vera List Center at The New School, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and The Artists’s Institute, New York, among others.


syms in light top black skirt with hand on hipMARTINE SYMS (b. 1988, Los Angeles) uses video and performance to examine representations of blackness. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, Hammer Museum, ICA London, New Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. She has lectured at Yale University, SXSW, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, and MoMA PS1, among other venues. Syms’ recently presented exhibitions include BOON, Secession; Shame Space, ICA Virginia Commonwealth University; Grand Calme, SCHQ; Big Surprise, Bridget Donahue Gallery; Contemporary Projects: Martine Syms, Serralves Museum; Projects 106: Martine Syms, Museum of Modern Art; Fact and Trouble, ICA London. From 2007-2011 she was the co-director of the Chicago artist run project space Golden Age, and she currently runs Dominica Publishing, an imprint dedicated to exploring blackness in visual culture. She is the author of Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content and Context in Contemporary Race Film (2011).

Map + Directions

The Hurley Gallery is located on the mezzanine level (above the Forum, below Plaza) at the Lewis Arts complex at 122 Alexander Street.

Shuttle buses will be provided for transportation across campus between the Lewis Arts complex and the theater at 185 Nassau.


Alexander Street, between Lawrence Drive in Princeton and Canal Pointe Boulevard in West Windsor, will close for about six months beginning on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, for road construction.

Construction makes traveling to campus more time consuming. Traffic congestion from all routes to campus during peak times (weekdays, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) will be higher than normal. Drivers traveling to campus along Route 1 will see the greatest delays.

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Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Program in Media + Modernity
  • Department of African American Studies
  • Department of Art and Archaeology
  • Program in Visual Arts