Art, Democracy, and Justice: Holland Cotter @ The Frist Art Museum

On November 14th, 2018 the Frist Art Museum hosted the inaugural Art, Democracy, and Justice lecture series organized by artist and Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair and Professor of Art María Magdalena Campos-Pons. Featuring The New York Times Co-Chief Art Critic Holland Cotter, artist and author Olu Oguibe, and curator and artistic director Adam Szymczyk, the three-part lecture addressed contemporary and resurgent political digressions from democracy and art’s collective responsivity to such realities. Largely centered around Olu Oguibe’s permanent public sculpture in Kassel, Germany, Monument for Strangers and Refugees (2017)—created for Documenta 14, and which was subsequently removed due to right-wing German political indignation—the conversation that emerged across the three lectures posed a consideration of how power, division, politics, and recursive oppression are reflected in the landscape.   

Below is the full transcription of Holland Cotter’s lecture for Art, Democracy, and Justice at the Frist Art Museum. All words are his own, save for inline clarifications.  


Holland Cotter: Good evening everybody. I’m very glad to be here. First of all, I want to thank Magda for inviting me to Nashville. And let me just say that this city and Vanderbilt university and its students—who are always the most important people in the room—are all hugely fortunate to have her as an artist and as a person; an artist and a person of her brilliance and energy and just plain through and through goodness, which counts more than anything. You are very lucky to have her in residence.  

As you heard, Magda and Olu Oguibe both participated in Documenta 14 which was conceived and directed by Adam Szymczyk and took place last year in two locations, Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany. I reported on the Kassel presentation for The New York Times and I reviewed it very positively—it was a wonderful show. A few months later I made a mention of it again in an end of year list of outstanding art season events, by which time the exhibition had encountered political blowback.

I wrote in that capsule review: “Ambitiously diffuse, the exhibition took off in more directions than any single event even twice its size could handle. Anti-fascist and pro-immigrant, it attracted fury from Germany’s right-wing press as being too “political”, and it was hit with accusations of over spending. Had the show been lighter, brighter, less political, and a big tourist draw, not to mention a box-office hit, would its budgetary overdraw have been grounds for disgrace? My guess is, no.” 

Among the exhibition’s high points, along with a fantastic performance by Magda that explored the effluent sources of Cuban culture, was Olu Oguibe’s sculpture, Monument for Strangers and Refugees (2017) which was installed on the Königsplatz [King’s Square] at the very center of the city near the main Documenta campus. It was a fifty-four-foot-tall concrete obelisk inscribed on four sides with the phrase taken from the Mathew gospel of the New Testament [25:35], “I was a stranger, and you took me in”. The words were written with gold letter in German, English, Arabic, and Turkish.  

Olu Oguibe,  Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument  ( Monument for Strangers and Refugees ), (2017). Photo by Michael Nast.

Olu Oguibe, Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), (2017). Photo by Michael Nast.

When I first saw this piece, I was overcome with emotion. I was moved both by the work itself and by the context it appeared in. Adam and his team of curators had designed an exhibition that, unusually for Documenta in my experience, encompassed the whole city of Kassel—reaching into sections of the city that were largely home to non-German immigrants.  

Monument for Strangers and Refugees became the geographic and conceptual lynchpin of the entire exhibition; a great radiant beacon that symbolically brought urban populations together and encapsulated the exhibitions spirit of generosity. I was also moved because this work of art stood in such contrast to the cultural climate that I knew as a young person in the United States.  

I was born in the years just after World War II. I grew up in the late 1940’s and 1950’s in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in the Cold War era of “the red scare”, when a republican senator from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy, who served in Congress from 1947-1957, claimed that the United States was infested with malevolent aliens, including Communist spies, and he conducted a public campaign to root them out. He circulated his accusations—which were often based on fabricated evidence—through what was then the most up to date of social media, television. His attacks were anti-foreigner, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay. And I should mention that at this time, every state in the union had sodomy laws on the books, which would effectively charge a consensual sex between gay men and could result in up to thirty years in prison, depending on the state.  

During these years, much of the American public seemed to buy McCarthy’s message. Many elected politicians either cheered him on or were silent. Art too, was for the most part silent, or spoke only in highly coded terms. It was, I think, no coincidence that abstraction was the painting and sculptural mode favored by the market at that time.  

Because I was very young during this time, I wasn’t fully aware what was happening. I only picked up on the mood of paranoia that poisoned the air. What I was more aware of—though I would not have been able to put a name to it—was that the America that I pledged allegiance to in my class rooms was an apartheid state. When I was very young racial segregation in public schools was still legal and was enforced. Technically, this changed with the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, but in the schools I went to, de facto segregation continued unchanged.  

I could have read racial politics just by looking around me. As it was, I absorbed it through the main stream news media. The same media that had given McCarthy his platform was also broadcasting or printing images of civil rights demonstrators being attacked by police, of African-American churches being wrecked by white terrorists and bombs, and what had every appearance of being a race war in progress across the country. Again, I saw no reflection of this in art. Most of the new art I encountered in magazines that my parents had around the house was abstract—I wasn’t aware of the work and figurative work that was being done by politically minded artists or of Andy Warhol, whose torn from the tabloid silk screens were being shown in New York but had not reached Boston. What I was getting though, was interesting political instruction in traditional art museums which I had started to frequent very early.  

Andy Warhol,  Black and White Disaster , (1962) Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art Collection

Andy Warhol, Black and White Disaster, (1962) Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art Collection

I grew up in a museum going family. Our main museum was the Boston Museum of Fine Arts—the MFA. Art museums in the 1950’s, which was when I started going, were not like museums today. This was before blockbusters and before museums became primary social spaces. Back then, they were almost always empty and as quiet as libraries. On Saturdays in winter, beginning when I was about ten years old, my parents would drop me off at the MFA and leave me there and go about their city business. I was in the protective custody of the guards who all knew me, and because I was a shy but together kid, they let me go where wherever I wanted to go—and I went everywhere in the museum. I got to know pretty much the whole collection, very early, and very well. Egyptian mummies, John Singleton Copley portraits, Netherlandish altar pieces, and Monet landscapes, along with a handful of life size Japanese carved wood buddhas, and bronze figures of Hindu deities in the South Asian collection. 

I see in retrospect how valuable those self-guided tours of the museum were—no one was saying to me “Look at this because it’s great, but never mind that”. I looked at everything. Right from the start, I got a sense of a side-by-side existence of all kinds of art from different era’s and cultures. And most important, I got a sense of the equal value of those cultures. I think because of that immersion no art has ever felt foreign to me in the sense of being alien and unapproachable. At the same time, there was also a lot I was not seeing.  

The MFA was what we now call an encyclopedic museum—in those days we called it a universal museum—but it was an encyclopedia missing major volumes. There was no art from Africa apart from Egypt which, at that time, wasn’t really considered to be Africa; there was no art from Columbian and Central South America, or the Caribbean, or Australia; there was no native North-American art. For all that, and most art by people of color, you had to go to ethnological museums or natural history museums where that art wasn’t art—it was science, some kind of other lesser thing—and it was segregated from “real art”, “high art”, in a way that exactly replicated American racial politics at that time.  

Of course, I couldn’t have articulated any of this, positive or negative, then. But gradually, and almost by accident, I was forming a social consciousness through the politics of personal experience.  

In the summer of 1964, when I was in high school, I went AWOL from home. A friend had been sent to a reform school in Texas for committing petty crimes and I thought I would go and visit to give him some moral support. He was breaking into homes in our hometown, including my parent’s home, and it was kind of performance art—he would break in, he didn’t take anything—the whole point was to get in and get out without being caught. He succeeded for a very long time before he was nabbed. So, I went and visited him that summer. I scraped together some money— borrowed from friends actually—I bought a one hundred dollar good-for-a-year go-anywhere Greyhound bus ticket, got on a bus, and headed south. I had some clothes in a backpack and books in a shopping bag. I had Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentals to Walden, Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days—which was his account of his experiences as the equivalent of a psychiatric nurse during the Civil War in Washington D.C.—I had Emily Dickinson’s collected poems in one volume—the 1951 Jonathan edition—and I had Jack Kerouac's On the Road.  

Robert Frank,  Main Street–Savannah, Georgia , from  The Americans  (1955). © Robert Frank

Robert Frank, Main Street–Savannah, Georgia, from The Americans (1955). © Robert Frank

Buses were at that time, a relatively cheap mode of interstate travel; most of my fellow travelers were working class, many were African-American. When I crashed for a few nights with my cousin John Elliot, who was then a young English professor at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I learned that that summer was “Mississippi Freedom Summer”, when northern college students were coming to Mississippi to register people to vote. Three civil rights workers had disappeared and were feared murdered by the Ku Klux Klan or other white nationalists. John warned me to be careful and to keep my eyes open, and I did.  

I got a view of America that did not seem at all transcendental. As I traveled, I saw “White’s Only” signs at public water coolers, and “Blacks Served Here” signs at the side windows of restaurants. The message of exclusion was one I was familiar with in Boston, but here it was spelled out in signs. Then, in an indoor concert at a park in Washington, D.C.I encountered something glorious—a performance by the singer Miriam Makeba, who was in political exile from South Africa. At that concert, with the first racially integrated audience I had ever been part of, I learned what the word “apartheid” meant, and I had what I consider my first experience of activist art, and it was an art of both protest and embrace.  

It took more experiences like that one, and reading James Baldwin, and coming out as a gay, and meeting my first partner, who was my college roommate and a student of African history, and moving to New York City during the class wars of the 1970’s, when hip hop and graffiti were blooming in the Bronx, and traveling to North Africa, and spending time in India, and constantly looking at art, old and new, and finally seeing the art that had been invisible to me when I was young. Through all these experiences my eyes gradually opened to the political necessity of art and political utility of beauty in all its many forms.  

I joined the New York Times in 1991 when the intensely political art associated with multiculturalism was cresting. Multiculturalism was proved to be a problematic concept, but for me, back then and now still, it meant one main thing; everybody coming to the table, with all their colors, languages, genders, attitudes, and desires. At that table, we wouldn’t just break bread, we cooked up whole new cuisines, new kinds of nourishment, and everyone would get to tell their story, write their own histories.  

You probably needed to have been there to understand the sense of optimism then, but the social and political climate were not on art’s side. This was a time of terrible danger and alas, with the spread of AIDS, friends and lovers, artists among them, with whom we expected to share the rest of our lives, were suddenly going and gone. Extraordinary art emerged in response to the reality at that time, but so did the repressive culture wars that began in reaction to that art.  

I sense that those culture wars are with us again now. I would say to anyone who imagines that America has achieved a state of post-feminist, post-racial, post-class, post-colonial, post-fear grace, that you are wrong. Just listen to the international news, fundamental work of adversity and resistance in every area remains to be done. Can art do that work? I go back and forth in my thoughts about this.  

The market has become so adept at neutralizing everything it touches, and we live in a culture of infinite distraction. But I think of the work that Act Up AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power did in the 1990’s, using images and public performances to succeed in getting drug companies to release medications that saved lives—that was huge. I think of Olu Oguibe’s Monument for Strangers and Refugees, which brought the realities of otherness and exclusion out into the open and went further to pose an alternative to them—a prescription for civic health—and did so in a language that was both straightforward and compassionate.  

Olu Oguibe, detail of  Monument for Stranger and Refugees  (2017)   Photo by Ferenc Eln

Olu Oguibe, detail of Monument for Stranger and Refugees (2017) Photo by Ferenc Eln

Gran Fury,  Art is Not Enough , (1988) International Center for Photography archive

Gran Fury, Art is Not Enough, (1988) International Center for Photography archive

I hold on to the idea of art as a kind of moral empowerment zone; a set aside place where new, different, improved, corrected versions of reality can be proposed and even maybe sometimes realized. I like to think that just by occupying that zone, artists form a crucial force of resistance. As the filmmaker Luis Buñuel once said that artists “keep an essential margin of nonconformity alive. Thanks to them the powerful can never affirm that everyone agrees with their acts.”  

What the politically powerful can do, or try to do, is suppress art that they find threatening. This has been true in the case of Monument for Strangers and Refugees, a sculpture that, as a gesture of cultural embrace, was created to permanently occupy its central site in Kassel, under far-right pressure in Germany has been dismantled and removed from that site with the assurance that it will be reinstated elsewhere. When it will be returned to visibility however, is uncertain. Not at all uncertain however, is the reality that the reactionary, bullying, other-fearing, political forces of my youth are back. A significant difference is that artists and curators like Olu, Adam, and Magda, are consistently, variously, and collectively, speaking out.  


Out of Easy Reach: Allison Glenn @ Lipscomb

Allison M. Glenn, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, gave a talk at Lipscomb University on November 8, 2018 as part of part Seed Space + Locate Arts Insight Program. Discussing her curatorial project, Out of Easy Reach—an intergenerational exhibition of female-identifying artists that was on view simultaneously at DePaul Art Museum, Stony Island Arts Bank, and Gallery 400 through August 2018, and is currently showing at Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University—Glenn outlined the curatorial strategies, notes on abstractions, and conceptual relationships between artists central to the exhibition’s narrative.

Below is a transcription from a portion of that talk. All words contained in this transcription are Allison Glenn’s, save for in-line comments in regards to artwork descriptions.

Allison Glenn: Thank you all for coming tonight.

I want to talk about a few different projects. I’ve been at Crystal Bridges for about nine months, and it’s been a huge transition. I moved from New Orleans, Louisiana to Bentonville, Arkansas which is basically in the north-west corner of the state. There’s about 35,000 people in the town I live in, which I think is about twice the size of this university. 

I’m going to walk you through a few projects that are really near and dear to me. One of them is Out of Easy Reach which is an exhibition that is on view now at Indiana University in Bloomington. With this exhibition, I remain super grateful for everything that’s happened around it. The genesis of the project came out of frustrations in graduate school with a lack of representation and a lack of diversity in classes I was taking. It was always week seven or week nine in the class [when there was a discussion] about women, artists of color, and queer identifying artists. It became super exhausting to be set up in this framework that was one dimensional.

This exhibition works really hard to push against these seemingly siloed art histories and to think about—in particular—abstraction. While it’s doing the work to push against siloed art histories, it also does classify artists based on gender, identity, and race. What I was really thinking about in this exhibition is abstraction. 

There are two particular places that I started. One is the artist Adrian Piper. She has this wonderful book that is basically her notes on contemporary art [Adrian Piper: Reflections 1967-1987]. There is this really beautiful quote that I’m going to share with you: 

“Abstraction is flying. Abstraction is ascending to higher and higher levels of conceptual generalization; soaring back and forth, reflectively circling around and above the specificity and immediacy of things and events in space and time, from a perspective that embeds them in a conceptual framework of increasing breadth and depth…[Abstraction is also flight.] It is freedom from the immediate spatiotemporal events of the moment; freedom to plan the future, recall the past, comprehend the present from a reflective perspective that incorporates all three…Freedom to survey the real as a resource for embodying the impossible.” 

A second note on abstraction that I’ve been looking at recently is by the artist Zachary Cahill, who just put out a book through Mousse Magazine called the Black Flame of Paradise:

Sometimes I feel like people get too hung up on the 20th Century’s shape(s) of abstraction. Which can be a superficial take on abstract form; devoid of the content that many abstract pioneers were surveying. Abstraction may have the “look” of abstraction but not the abstraction of abstraction, if that makes any sense. That abstract-looking art could actually be abstract in the substantive way in which the old pioneers were after, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the verb and the idea that abstraction is a process; to pull something out of something. Abstracting gold from the ground = a form of abstraction.” 

I want to leave you with those two positions as notes.

In his 2008 essay “Toward an Ethics of the Double Entendre” Thomas J. Lax considers the oscillation between familiarity and distance in photographer Leslie Hewitt’s body of work, Riffs on Real Time (2002-2008); “Pushed back by the severing perspective, the objects and the memories they reference are out of easy reach.” End quote. 

From traditional approaches to broader more challenging usage of the term, Out of Easy Reach explores the conceptual expansion of abstraction by American female-identifying artists from the black and Latinx diasporas. This exhibition is an argument for an expansive approach to the limited conversation around abstraction in contemporary art, and uses language as an avenue to navigate this discourse. 

Often, the language used to discuss abstraction is primarily focused on formal concerns such as “painterly” and “gestural”, that point to the application of paint, the rendering of imagery, and the relationship between artists and their canvas. These descriptors have historically been used in reference to the practices and processes of a canon of predominantly male artists while often leaving the contributions made by women—particularly women of color—outside of the dominant narrative of art history. 

This exhibition enthusiastically moves beyond a highly restrictive space of art history and beyond the terms that I mentioned by identifying themes in shared aesthetic and conceptual concerns, emerging across three generations of artists.

This exhibition originated in Chicago and it opened simultaneously at Gallery 400 at UIC Chicago, DePaul Art Museum, and Stony Island Arts Bank. The artists were grouped based on conceptual, material, and process affinities, but there were definitely connections across the groupings. I’m going to walk you through that process. 

The curatorial process began with four artists that I consider anchors; Candida Alvarez, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Maren Hassinger, and Howardena Pindell. Ten of the artists were born as part of Generation X and ten were born as part of the millennial generation. A really important thing, to me, was to introduce these intergenerational dialogues. 

Out of Easy Reach addresses a crisis of visibility of female identifying artists of color within the narrative of abstraction’s history by connecting multiple generations through a wide temporal framework. The exhibition is thus structured to incorporate the four artists [Candida Alvarez, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Maren Hassinger, and Howardena Pindell] whose work has influenced generations of artists who have followed them. For example, Candida Alvarez’s consideration of the landscape and the impact of history and culture on place has directly or indirectly informed the work of younger artists like Caroline Kent, Shinique Smith, and Kellie Romany

Spatial Politics, Mapping, and Migration at Gallery 400

At Gallery 400 the grouping was on Spatial Politics, Mapping, and Migration. This is the statement that grouped these artists together:

Amidst a current global turn towards nationalism and the United States’ ever-increasingly exclusionary international relations, artists who explore spatial politics and their bodies in relation to borders and the built environment are opening avenues for re-thinking narratives about ownership and access. As a country comprised of indigenous populations and individuals who, at one point or another, were brought here by force or came here by choice, the U.S. will always face infrastructural biases based related to immigration, land use, and policy making. In this section, abstraction is employed as a tool to consider issues related to the mapping of race and gender onto the body, southern migration to the north west, and borders—this is one of those intergenerational exchanges that I mentioned. 

Howardena Pindell,  Free, White, and 21  (1980)

Howardena Pindell, Free, White, and 21 (1980)

The image on the left is by Howardena Pindell and it’s from a film called Free, White, and 21. It was made in 1980. What Pindell is doing is employing the theatricality of performance through costuming, storytelling, and changing mise en scène. Though this film is unique in Pindell’s oeuvre, it is integral to the exhibition for several reasons. It’s the oldest work, and it acts as an anchor, bridging the performance practices of the seventies and eighties with those of younger artists such as Juliana Huxtable, whose work is shown here on the right [below]. 

In this film, Howardena switches between recounting micro-agressions that she and her mother experienced and the role of the aggressor. She adds material to her body and to her face to shift the way that she is presenting herself, and it creates this dialogue between the aggressor and the aggressed that identifies and further elucidates exactly what Howardena was experiencing at this time. 

Juliana Huxtable,  Nuwaub Chair , (2012)

Juliana Huxtable, Nuwaub Chair, (2012)

Juliana is a female identifying trans artist who relies on some of the similar tactics of performance that Howardena does in this particular film and also that other artists, like Adrian Piper. She expands this big race binary that Howardena is looking at to include gender. By putting these two artists together, one of the biggest questions that I have had is; how is representation abstraction? How is a body abstraction? 

From the onset, this was really about making an argument that abstraction is—as Zachary Cahill said—abstracting from something; abstraction is a process. It is not necessarily tied to what we commonly understand as a very formal painterly approach. It’s interesting, a lot of people asked me questions about this in talks and in gallery walk-throughs because it was difficult for many people to understand how abstraction can be a form of representation. I stand by it. 

Installation view of Torkwase Dyson's  Untitled (Hypershape ) (2017) at Gallery 400

Installation view of Torkwase Dyson's Untitled (Hypershape) (2017) at Gallery 400

There were these really interesting moments that popped up within Spatial Politics, Mapping, and Migration. The image of the left [above] is by Torkwase Dyson’s installation, and on the right, [below] is another work by Juliana Huxtable that I included in the exhibition.

Torkwase’s ever evolving practice examines how geometry and the language of shapes pull history and meaning. This work is entitled, Untitled (Hypershape) (2017) and it continues the production of painting and works on paper that investigate power with specific relationships to land, history, and natural resources. The title is influenced by ecological theorist Timothy Morton’s concept of “hyperobejcts”; objects that are so diffused that they are not easy to study and understand directly, such as global warming. Dyson’s hypershape practice builds formal improvisation on proximity, habitation, and motion, as they relate to the material zones of industrial abstraction and capital exploitation. 

I juxtaposed the two of these works together because they’re really landscapes for me, and they are abstractions of landscapes. So, for Torkwase on the left—thinking about the impossibility of site—she is looking at land that may have been traumatized by drilling or fracking, or water that was contaminated. On the right, Juliana is—I would argue of all the works in the exhibition this is probably the most autobiographical—she has created this digital landscape where she is taking on this first person narrative, talking about desire through the lens of video games. 

Juliana Huxtable,  Untitled (for Stewart) , (2012)

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled (for Stewart), (2012)

What is interesting about Juliana’s work is that often she creates these chat space works which arguably could be considered performance scripts, and the images also. The text and the image work together to create a narrative, but the text is also the image, so it too is the work itself. The intimacy of this narrative invites the reader into a recollection of longing that is rooted in a digital landscape. Juliana explores alienation through the lens of video games, specifically, how her desire to play video games as a female avatar stood in contrast to her male counterparts. The artist recounts an affinity with what is shared in official womanhood that both she and the avatars possessed, using the artifice of video game culture as an opportunity to explore the landscape of gender identity. 

A sentence from this work; “My womanhood was entirely artificial, save my mind and a tingling sensation in my spine present at the revelation of a new level, especially one unlocked as a secret”. 

Landscape, Body, and the Archive at DePaul Art Museum

At DePaul Art Museum we looked at Landscape, Body, and the Archive. For this section I feel that many of the artists could have easily fit into Landscape, Body, and the Archive, but I was really interested in considering artists that were thinking about either reframing archives that already existed or reconsidering landscape through their subject position. It includes a group of artists that mine histories of abstraction and modernism, relating them to representation of the self and the environment. 

Print media has a particular resonance and many works in this section explore how artists employ mark making and translation in order to re-situate, shift, and reconsider the archive. Architectures of power and protest appear alongside intimate considerations of the body, and material explorations collide with shared philosophical relationships to nonlinear time. 

Xaviera Simmons,  On   Sculpture # 2  (2011)

Xaviera Simmons, On Sculpture # 2 (2011)

The object on the left [above] is Xaviera Simmons On Sculpture # 2 (2011), and it was created after she did a walk with a group of Buddhist's. She traced the transatlantic slave trade and immigrant migration from north to south. What’s interesting is that she has mapped this image that she has torn from a magazine and in the corner you can read that it says, “backstage”, and there are all of these bodies jumping and diving off the boat. It seems playful but you wonder about that site. 

Ariel Jackson,  The Origin of Blues , 2015

Ariel Jackson, The Origin of Blues, 2015

The image on the right Ariel Jackson [above] created from various different sources. She created it post-Katrina as a way to talk her experience with the aftermath of the storm and how people—her classmates in New York—accepted her position and her understanding of that event. 

Process, Time, and Material Culture at the Stony Island Arts Bank.

Installation view of Shinique Smith's,  Forgiving Strands  (2014–present) at  Out of Easy Reach , Stony Island Arts Bank

Installation view of Shinique Smith's, Forgiving Strands (2014–present) at Out of Easy Reach, Stony Island Arts Bank

There were three artists in this portion of the exhibition. Shinique Smith is the artist on the left [above]. I was very much struck by Shinique’s choices to drape Forgiving Strands, I actually had a chance to see it Hauser and Wirth in L.A. in 2015 and I was just set on having this in the exhibition. It is a work that has so many challenges in regard to shipping and installation but I was really quite struck with the way that her draping really mirrors Barbara Chase-Riboud’s work.

Barbara is the oldest artist in the exhibition; she was the first and only artist to be on the cover of Ebony Magazine; she has had multiple moments in her career. Through the exhibition, while I was planning it, Shinique shared with me that while she was working at the Walters Art Museum, Barbara was having an exhibition there. So there was this moment of reciprocity and Shinique was very much impacted by Barbara’s work. 

Installation view of Barbara Chase Riboud's  Little Gold Flag  (1985)

Installation view of Barbara Chase Riboud's Little Gold Flag (1985)

Sheree Hovsepian,  Sway  (2017) in Out of Easy Reach at Stony Island Arts Bank

Sheree Hovsepian, Sway (2017) in Out of Easy Reach at Stony Island Arts Bank

The work on the right [above] is by Sheree Hovsepian. Again, I had to make an argument for this because this exhibition is really focused on black and latino diasporas so the question is; how is an Iranian artist part of this? It was through the material connections. The etymology of macrame is rooted in the French language, but it also has roots in Arabic. If you trace the movement of this material, it moves from Egypt and East Africa into Iran—that was the connection.

For each site [in this exhibition] it was important to have a site-specific work. This is [below] Edra Soto’s installation at DePaul Art Museum on the facade. Edra’s work often looks at architecture as a power. There are these ornate fences in Puerto Rico called rejas and they’re primarily middle class architecture, but they definitely have this dual purpose of designating who is allowed inside. 


Edra Soto installation at DePaul Art Museum