This weekend, San Francisco joined the good fight, marching the streets for stricter gun control laws across the nation. How appropriate then it seems, that just blocks away at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, their newest exhibition pays homage to another American hero who, unjustly so, lost his life at the hands of gun violence.
Bobby Kennedy died fifty years ago on June 5, 1968 when Sirhan Sirhan fatally shot the presidential hopeful at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Days later, his funeral train charted passage from New York City to his final resting place at Arlington Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C.
Champion of civil rights, migrant workers rights, and gun control, Bobby Kennedy was the tenacious megaphone to Americans that struggled having a voice, let alone a place, in the nation. For those that don’t know much of the former Attorney General of our nation, the younger and unyielding brother of JFK, to walk through SFMoMA’s exhibit is to understand the immovable, hard-fought place he earned in the hearts of so many Americans. With each mile that train traveled, it seems it came one lunge closer to the apotheosis of Bobby Kennedy.
The exhibition is not only powerful, but also palpable. Museum goers are at once on the train with Bobby as well as watching it pass by from the side of the tracks, knowing full well that something truly good has been lost at the hands of some terrible hate. From the famous photographs of Paul Fusco (26 of them, to be exact) to the genius offshoot projects of Dutch photographer Rein Jelle Terpstra and French conceptual artist Philippe Parreno, the entire exhibition transports visitors to those traveling days of 1968.
Terpstra’s project ingeniously takes Mr. Fusco’s iconic photos and turns the camera the opposite direction by tracking down the amateur photos taken by those everyday Americans that went to say “So long, Bobby” as his funeral train passed through their towns. These images are mapped out across the walls of the exhibit, providing an intimate look at this powerful moment in American History. Parreno’s 70 mm film runs seven minutes long and transports viewers onto the train itself, while reenactors take on the persona of the various figures from Mr. Fusco’s photographs. The sound of the train ticking along the tracks syncs hauntingly with the grief stricken faces that pay respect to its contents. Together, the three facets of this piece not only pay homage to RFK on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, but also remind us of what he fought for. And perhaps, what we fight for still.
// ”The Train” at SFMoMA runs until June 10th; get tickets at 151 3rd St, SoMa, www.sfmoma.org;