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A REVIEW OF THE WEEK’S NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS IN THE ART WORLD:

New York Times Reviews Civil Rights Exhibit
In a review of “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” at the Brooklyn Museum, the Times says the show gets both the balance of history and selection of artists right. Co-curated by Teresa A. Carbone, the museum’s curator of American art and Kellie Jones, associate professor of art history at Columbia University, “Witness” assembles a refreshing mix of African American artists (Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, David Hammons, Barkley Hendricks, Jae Jarrell, Jacob Lawrence, John T. Riddle Jr., Charles White, William T. Williams) and artists of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, including several prominent white artists (Phillip Guston, Robert Indiana, Norman Rockwell, Ed Ruscha) inspired by the volatile climate of the era that would come to define a great part of America’s character. According to the Times, the exhibition on view from March 7 to July 6 is “a vivid record of that time [the 1960s] as seen through some of its art. Imaginatively chosen, the show lays to rest the idea that photography was the only memorable visual work the era produced. It plays an important part, but only a part: Most of what’s here is painting, sculpture and collage.”

Art21 Announces New Book Club
Known for its film series and comprehensive video and television interviews with a wide range of contemporary artists, Art21 is starting a book club. Over the past decade, the nonprofit has opened up the world of contemporary art through its PBS series “Art in the 21st Century” and in the process has established an impressive archive of interviews with artists opening up about their work, inspirations and creative process. Art21 has also produced short documentaries and online content, providing a vast resource for anyone seeking to teach or learn about contemporary art. This week, the organization announced it is venturing beyond digital content to live programming in the form of a book club. Described as an offline space that encourages dialogue and debate, the Art21 Book Club “invites avid readers to participate in semi-intimate conversations about fiction and nonfiction books relevant to themes of the Art21 Magazine.” Led by Heather Hart, a Brooklyn-based artist known for her participatory installations, the first meeting on April 17 at the CUE Art Foundation will discuss “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.” Space is limited to 25 participants. To RSVP, email magazine (at) art21 (dot) org.

racePhotography Project Reflects on Race in Mid-1800s
Mirror of Race, a Suffolk University photography project, challenges assumptions about race. The project features daguerreo­type, tintypes, ambrotypes and other forms of early photography captured from about 1839 to 1876: Two men—one black the other white—squaring off as though they are about to engage in fisticuffs; A black woman holding a white baby in her lap; A formal portrait of a white woman with a vertical mass of course hair; A seated black man captured with three white children reading books; Three men in Klan-like robes and hoods; A black man in formal attire clutching a trumpet. The vintage photographs are presented initially without captions and in the main exhibition they are not arranged in any particular order or groupings. This approach encourages viewers to invoke their own context and impose their own ideas about the subject and the circumstances of the images. (Therefore, the above descriptions are inherently bias.) More information in graduated detail is available after viewing each photo by clicking links for “basic information,” then “factual information” followed by “interpretive commentary.” The exercise is meant to provoke candid assumptions about race and thereby force viewers to re-examine their understanding of race 150 years ago and how that point-of-view may influence their perspectives about race today.

The goal of Mirror of Race is to “demon­strate that race in [the mid-1800s] was a much more fluid and ambigu­ous con­cept than we may now assume.”

According to the New York Times, “The project was founded by Derek Burrows, a musician and storyteller whose work draws upon the traditions of the African diaspora; Greg French, who has amassed one of most important private collections of early American photographs dealing with race; and Gregory Fried, who teaches philosophy at Suffolk University in Boston.” As stated on the website, the goal of the project, which also features special collections focusing on gender, abolitionists, violence, the human body and “slaves in black and white” is to “demon­strate that race in [the mid-1800s] was a much more fluid and ambigu­ous con­cept than we may now assume…Of course, some images may seem only to con­firm our expec­ta­tions of that era’s depic­tions. This ten­sion is what the Mir­ror of Race intends to explore…But beyond the his­tor­i­cal dimen­sion, the project hopes to hold up these images as a mir­ror to our present, to con­front our under­stand­ing of the mean­ing of race today.” A related museum exhibition, “The Mirror of Race: Seeing Ourselves through History,” is on view at the Adams Gallery at Suffolk University through May 18, 2014. CT

 

IMAGES: From top, Entrance to the Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine; Collection of Greg French | via Mirror of Race

 

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