Houston Artist Pays Tribute to Black Panther Party With 1980s Cartoons

An art exhibition explores the serious subject of race and police relations with a sense of humor.

By Amy BishopSeptember 29, 2015 8:30 am| ,

This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media

Houston artist Phillip Pyle is in the middle of drilling holes in the gallery of Fresh Arts on Winter Street. He’s installing his exhibit, Black Panther Party Power, a tribute to the social activist group, the Black Panthers. But there’s a twist.  

“If you like comic books, and you like the Civil Rights movement, and you also like the cartoon Voltron, it’ll work perfectly for you,” Pyle says with a grin.

The graphic artist has taken pictures of Black Panther Party members and Photoshopped them with images of characters from the 1980s cartoon, Voltron. One picture is about six feet high. It’s the Voltron robot with the Black Panther logo on his armor. Pyle calls him “Panthron.”

When he came up with the concept last year, it was mostly to recognize the party’s upcoming 50th anniversary. But now it’s more topical as the country continues to debate the relationship between police and the communities they serve.  

“It’s essentially the same stuff we’re still asking for now,” Pyle says.  ”Like accountability with police officers and just the same respect that every citizen gets.”

The exhibit has already received some animosity on social media. Pyle says it’s the artist’s job to accept it and enjoy it.