Monday, June 23, 2008

Over at Jezebel, there's a post on Jessica Dawson's WaPo review of She's So Articulate at the Arlington Arts Center.

Jessica did a fine job with her review...except that I think she describes Henry as being more troubled by Kara Walker's work than he actually is. Henry, as anyone who knows him could tell you, is a huge Kara Walker fan. One of the first things he handed me when we started talking about how to proceed with this show was a copy of the catalogue for Walker's show at the Whitney.

Henry and I both see this show as an opportunity to argue for an "expanded field" of black narrative art--which we often find is considered pretty narrowly, and tends to get reduced to only a handful of key figures and their influences. The goal, then, is not to diminish Kara Walker or her work. It's to introduce complexity into a conversation that can sometimes seem a little constrained or sensationalizing--to make the idea of "black art" as difficult to pin down as it actually is.

The show doesn't set out to pick apart Walker or label her as an oppressor. (The friggin' wall text of the show includes very smart quotes by Kara Walker that support the arguments made by the curators. That might be a tip-off.) Instead, it celebrates a wide variety of approaches, in a wide variety of media, by artists whose work is personal or impersonal, cultural or cross-cultural, didactic or deliberately enigmatic, etc.

One thing is clear about the 111+ people who have commented on the Jezebel site: Although they've all apparently read at least two or three sentences from Jessica's review, none of them have either a) actually seen the exhibition, or b) actually read the catalogue essays to which they're responding so heatedly.

All of which could lead a person to think that maybe the internet needs to be put out of its misery.

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