Signs of the Times

Today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you Ashley Stull Meyers’s article from issue 8.3: Art can’t do anything if we don’t. Meyers discusses the collecting institution’s role in politics and protest, exploring “what, how, and to what ends our cultural institutions collect,” specifically in regards to protest ephemera. This article was originally published on March 23, 2017.

Organizers put the Women’s March on Washington in Washington D.C. on Saturday Jan. 21, 2017. Photo: Alanna Vagianos, Huffington Post.

Organizers put the Women’s March on Washington in Washington D.C. on Saturday Jan. 21, 2017. Photo: Alanna Vagianos, Huffington Post.

January 21 of this year was a historic day for Americans of all political leanings. For those who sympathize with or are protected by liberal-leaning ideology, the 2017 Women’s March on Washington served to illustrate that they were not alone—that an arguable majority of the nation shares their discontent. For those in celebration of the previous day’s inauguration and speculative incoming agenda, it signaled precisely how steep the incline toward a true national conservatism will be. Nearly 3.3 million people nationwide converged on the streets of their respective cities as a collective demonstration against inequities and improprieties—particularly those against cis-gendered, white women.

Images of protesters and their signs flooded social media channels; news outlets of varying reach and audience picked them up in equal measure. By January 22nd, several museums and cultural institutions had announced that they would acquire leftover or donated signs as a marker of the momentous spectacle. This choice surprises even for collecting institutions with an existing interest in historical documents. For public institutions, collecting political ephemera is fairly provocative. Museum acquisitions are inherently transactional, be it financially, conceptually, or both. Institutions either purchase artworks and artifacts outright, receive them as donations with their financial value declared, or accept them as gifts with acknowledgement of the institution’s and the donor’s growing relationship. Even when no money changes hands, its not unusual to expect a future quid pro quo.

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

The Intersectional Self at the 8th Floor

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Jasa McKenzie reviews The Intersectional Self at 8th Floor Gallery.

Andrea Bowers. Throwing Bricks (Johanna Saavedra), 2016; archival pigment print, 77 1/2 x 57 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Andrea Bowers. Throwing Bricks (Johanna Saavedra), 2016; archival pigment print; 77 1/2 x 57 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

As more feminist marches, protests, and gatherings organize in the wake of the new U.S. administration, critiques of contemporary feminist approaches also emerge. Two of the largest issues that feminism faces today are the exclusion of transgender and non-White cultural perspectives and representations. The Intersectional Self at 8th Floor Gallery answers the call for the need of these inclusions by assembling myriad identities to center the conversation around feminism and gender.

Andrea Bowers’ Trans Liberation: Beauty in the Street (Johanna Saavedra) (2016) photograph features Saavedra, a trans Latina immigrant activist, walking down a street in Los Angeles, throwing a symbolic brick. Its portrayal of a woman-identified person with multiple other melding identities is a striking example of communicating resilience and intersectionality. The piece, which recalls the Stonewall Riots, exemplifies that the ongoing fight for equality will not be forfeited until it is achieved for all.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith’s mapping practice concretizes the ephemeral. Inverting the Situationists’ concept of psychogeography, in which the experience of a place affects a person’s psychological state or behavior, Smith’s maps reinterpret spaces with reference to specific events or feelings. The Incidents series refers to particular moments in time and space. Like any attempt at describing sensation or memory, the results shift and undulate, making room for both geographic fact and chimeric phenomenological experience. In folding together things that can be known by other people (such as actual locations) and things that cannot (another person’s experiences), Smith’s work challenges the function of maps as reference points for reality and suggests that affective and objective experiences are not so distinct after all.

Patricia Smith. Upper Brooklyn Recovered Memory Tureen, 2014; ink, watercolor, graphite, collage on paper; 41 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Patricia Smith. Upper Brooklyn Recovered Memory Tureen, 2014; ink, watercolor, graphite, collage on paper; 41 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

One can imagine that the Incidents maps are made in much the same way topographic maps are, with the spaces and situations felt out by the mapmaker and recorded as faithfully as her skill allows. By referring to actual geography, usually without declaring the place, a Smith map engages the attention of viewers who recognize the places by sight—presumably people who are familiar with and have connections to them. Though Smith’s references are deeply personal, her maps can tap rather intimately into her audience’s experiences, in a way formalizing a landscape of interpersonal qualia. With her maps, Smith declares the inextricable reciprocity between place and sensation, asserting that each is created and understood through the lens of the other.
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Melbourne

Who’s Afraid of Colour? at the National Gallery of Victoria

In Who’s Afraid of Colour?, likely the largest exhibition ever of its kind, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Australia is acknowledging and actively working to correct the institutional erasure of Australian Indigenous art, “the world’s longest continuing art tradition,” which has endured for some 40,000 years. The exhibition includes 200 artworks by 118 artists, all of whom are Australian Indigenous women. Since the beginning of the continent’s colonization, Indigenous peoples’ artworks have been denied their rightful place within the Australian art scene. Sentiments finally began to change in the 1960s, after centuries, but Indigenous women were still steadily excluded. The NGV itself is guilty of mounting a survey of over 300 Indigenous artworks in 1981 and not crediting a single female artist.[1]

Who’s Afraid of Colour?, National Gallery of Victoria, 2016-2017; installation view. Courtesy of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Taylor.

Who’s Afraid of Colour?, National Gallery of Victoria, 2016-2017; installation view. Courtesy of the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Taylor.

Nevertheless, Australian Indigenous women artists have worked hard to earn their growing recognition, marked by a number of significant milestones including Emily Kam Kngwarray, Yvonne Koolmatrie, and Judy Watson representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1997; the first sale for over $1,000,000 at auction of Kngwarray’s Earth’s Creation in 2007; and this year, the selection of Tracey Moffatt to represent Australia in the first Indigenous woman’s solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

The large-scale exhibition at the NGV presents the full spectrum of contemporary Australian Indigenous art. Numerous woven baskets, necklaces, ceramics, and string bags—objects that might be considered craft in other contexts—are all included, and rightfully so, since craft and utilitarian works are defined as art objects in the Indigenous art discourse. Across most Indigenous cultures, the act of making art objects and paintings using traditional methods is a way to enter into Dreamtime, a nonlinear, expansive dimension of space and time wherein the landscape, objects, animals, and human beings were once created, and where all ancestors and events continue to exist throughout time. Howard Morphy describes how across Indigenous cultures, “Art established a line of connection with the foundational events and enabled people to maintain contact with the spiritual dimension of existence… [Art] keeps the past alive and maintains its relevance to the present.”[4]

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San Francisco

In Memoriam: Leigh Markopoulos

Today we honor the life and work of Leigh Markopoulos (1968–2017): art critic, curator, instructor, and friend and contributor to Daily Serving and our sister publication Art Practical. It is an understatement to say that Leigh was admired; she was loved in the way that only great mentors and friends are loved—fiercely, and without reservation. What follows are brief remembrances of a few of her former students and colleagues who are connected to our publications; without a doubt, this represents only a small sample of the many lives Leigh touched, but we hope it provides some sense of her enormous contributions to the community. We offer our sincere sympathies to all who mourn her loss. 

Leigh Markopoulos. Image courtesy of Peta Rake.

Leigh Markopoulos. Image courtesy of Peta Rake.

Ashley Stull Meyers:

At the too-old age of twenty-two I cried after an exhibition planning meeting. This one had gone worse than most, which is saying something in a small, opinion-filled conference room with thirteen other curators. I exited barely containing hot tears of frustration, doubt, and insecurity. But I didn’t get ten steps without feeling a hand on my back, pushing me across the hall with a force that was equal parts gentle and comedic. “Don’t you DARE!” she said. Leigh’s voice always had the hypnotizing effect of someone a little older, a little cooler, a little closer to what I was floundering to become. I’d felt that way about her since my graduate school interview, and now I’ll feel that way about her forever.

All my life I’ve wanted to be a curator, but I can’t say I truly knew what that was before Leigh. Her grace and academic rigor have been the model for many, but more so were her strength, humor, and commanding presence. She made me laugh that day in her tiny office across the hall. From her keen observation of both my practice and my person, she reordered the way I would come to work. Every exhibition I construct will have her temper, and whatever small marks I make will be in her likeness.

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Hashtags

#Hashtags: The Build Up

#art #community #development #displacement #gentrification #Los Angeles

What is required for art and social justice to coexist within the development of a city? In February, the activist collective known as Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD) made headlines for their picket of gallery 356 S. Mission Road, which occurred during a political organizing meeting called by a group of Los Angeles artists. And earlier in March, Boyle Heights nonprofit art gallery PSSST, which had been the primary target of anti-gentrification protests from BHAAAD, announced their impending closure. BHAAAD has been ardent in their opposition to “artwashing,” which they define as “the role of culture in gentrification,” and both PSSST and BHAAAD cite the protests as part of the reason for the closure. But BHAAAD’s victory is a Pyrrhic one so long as luxury developers and blue-chip art galleries continue to drive the development agenda in downtown LA and the LA River. With respect to priorities such as affordable rent and community investment, what would victory against the galleries mean for the coalition?

Defend Boyle Heights protest against PSSST and artwashing by galleries, May 13, 2016. Images courtesy of Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement.

Defend Boyle Heights protest against PSSST and artwashing by galleries, May 13, 2016. Courtesy of Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement.

Though catch-all terms such as “gentrification” and “artwashing” tend to frame the argument in simplified terms, the reality is more complicated. PSSST’s founders—Cal Arts MFAs, queer and trans-identified—opened the gallery’s doors in spring 2016 in a space donated by a developer with investments in the neighborhood. East Third Street is mostly industrial, with minimal residential housing, but the neighborhood as a whole is mixed. Historically, Boyle Heights has been an ethnically diverse enclave for Jewish communities in the mid-20th century and Latinx communities in recent decades. PSSST was offered as a site “to create and maintain an artistic community founded on the principle of artists supporting artists” and to focus on “underrepresented artists—women, people of color, LGBTQ-identified.” But according to a statement on the BHAAAD website, “One of the red flags about PSSST was the deep contradiction between the language used to promote the space, and the actual impact that such a space can have on the housing market and on the life of a very low-income community living in constant resistance against displacement.” The contrast between PSSST, housed in a donated and newly outfitted space, and the maintenance failures, rent hikes, and legally questionable evictions that threaten local residents was stark.

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Interviews

Kameelah Rasheed: Who Will Survive in America?

Today, from our friends at Guernica, we bring you a conversation between artist Kameelah Rasheed and author Imani Roach. They talk about the “stutters” and footnotes of history, archiving as art, visibility, and Rasheed’s project How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette). This article was originally published on March 6, 2017.

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Perhaps, while strolling down the sidewalks of New York City, or scanning your Instagram feed, you’ve encountered a thick crop of black block letters set against a neon yellow background that read “Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering,” or “Tell Your Struggle With Triumphant Humor.” If so, you have already been privy to the terse power of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s art. If you have ever kept a stack of ticket stubs or love letters in a shoebox under your bed, or taken a deep dive into the old issues of Ebony magazine beside your grandmother’s coffee table, then you are also acquainted with the ritualistic source of that power. While Rasheed’s creative process manifests in diverse ways—from slick text-based posters and superimposed projections of Black family photographs to installations comprising hundreds of pieces of ephemera—her interest in mining, complicating, and resurfacing historical narratives persists.

In addition to her various ongoing solo projects, Rasheed recently joined with more than 100 of her peers under the banner of Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. This group, originally convened by artist Simone Leigh in conjunction with her 2016 show at the New Museum, has already mounted an impressive slate of performances, workshops, installations, and ritual happenings, all in support of Black life, health, and collective joy. And it is just getting started. As Rasheed, who serves as the group’s official archivist, explains, “We’re really imagining this as a movement of multiple chapters. We are thinking about horizontal organization, honoring people’s capacities, and how every person plays a part in the process.”

Read the full article here.

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