Jamal Cyrus, Kennedy King Kennedy, 2015
Triptych, laser-cut Egyptian papyrus backed with handmade paper
68.6 x 42.5 cm (each)
27 x 16 3/4 in (each)
Copyright Jamal Cyrus
Jamal Cyrus’ triptych consists of historic newspaper pages laser-cut onto papyrus, creating precise but barely legible artifacts. The three pages lament the assassinations, respectively, of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy. All the pages are from the Chicago Daily Defender, an influential African-American publication. The choice of news outlet emphasizes the victims’ shared commitment to civil rights, and a tacit conjecture begins to suggest itself. A little more than a month after Robert Kennedy was murdered, the Daily Defender quoted a speech by Coretta Scott King in which she linked the three deaths: “It cannot be a coincidence that all three of the murdered people were actively engaged in the cause of social justice... After John F. Kennedy was murdered, my husband wrote that the assassination was predictable, given the climate in Dallas. Well, the same could have been said for the climate in Memphis or Los Angeles.” In this framework, the three Ks in Cyrus’ title aren’t a specific accusation: they’re an undeniable reminder of our savage inheritance and the suffering we inflict on our heroes.