Jeffrey Spencer Hargrave: I Can't Breathe


Ethan Cohen Gallery is proud to present Jeffrey Spencer Hargrave: “I Can’t Breathe”, an online exhibition of a series of drawings Jeffrey Spencer Hargrave created in 2014 reflecting on and reacting against police violence toward African Americans in the United States after the murder of Eric Garner in police custody. Following George Floyd's death in the hands of the police, we reflect on the horrific recurring nature of police brutality against African Americans by revisiting this body of work that had been within in a closed notebook for six years. Unbound, we present “I Can’t Breathe”, a series of eighteen drawings which takes its title from the last words spoken by Eric Garner, George Floyd, and over seventy people who have died in police custody in the past decade, most of whom were black.


In the artist’s own words, “These drawings based on police violence toward African Americans began after the chokehold murder of Eric Garner, which occurred on July 17, 2014. This horrific killing by the NYPD, was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which is still reverberating to this very day, and is hitting a crescendo at this very moment with another high-profile murder by the police, this time with George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, during one of the worst pandemics since the Spanish Flu of 1918.


'The worldwide outcry that an African American man can be murdered by the police, in the same manner as Eric Garner, during a worldwide pandemic that has forced us to quarantine and wear masks and gloves because of a virus so contagious that is has killed hundreds of thousands of people and has infected many more, was the figurative ‘straw that has broken the systematic racist policing blue wall’s back’.


‘As with my painting titled, “Angela Davis as Manet’s Olympia” which was prophetic with her raised clenched fist, now an icon of the BLM movement, the same prophecy-ism can be seen in my drawings of the police and its use of hate and militarism, that I drew in 2014.”


We mourn the loss of those senselessly murdered, we express outrage towards systematic oppression, and we express love and support towards voices and organizations calling for equity, defending human life and liberties. We call upon a reformed criminal justice system that serves and protects all with love and support rather than hate, prejudice, and militarization. We strive for a future of equity and love. 10% of the proceeds from any sold work will be split between Equal Justice Initiative and Loveland Foundation.


Black Lives Matter.