Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts

Aruna D’Souza. Badlands Unlimited, $19.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-943263-14-1
Art critic D’Souza (Cézanne’s Bathers) provides an impressively nuanced exploration of the relationship between art and race in America in this account of three controversies from the New York City art world. In 2017, the curators of the Whitney Biennial exhibited white artist Dana Schutz’s Open Casket, a painting of Emmett Till’s disfigured body, precipitating a debate about censorship and the responsibilities of artists and institutions. In 1979, Artists Space, an independent art space in SoHo, displayed white artist Donald Newman’s Nigger Drawings series, sparking an emotional back-and-forth between black artists, the gallery, and the wider art world about the meaning of open dialogue. And in 1969, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Harlem on My Mind exhibit provoked protests and dialogue about inclusion and museums’ power to police their boundaries. In examining these three events side by side, D’Souza lays bare the “contradiction at the heart of our idea of open dialogue: while it seems to depend on the idea of leaving open space for ambiguity, uncertainty, and the contingent, it is grounded in... de facto limits of who can speak and what can be said.” Though navigating this work is demanding, this book could become an essential primer in discussions about exclusion, free speech, and the power of institutions in the art world and outside it. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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