Washington, D.C.

Why Museums Should Be a Safe Space to Discuss Why #BlackLivesMatter

Today, from our friends at Smithsonian Magazine, we bring you Menachem Wecker’s piece on the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture’s panel  “History, Rebellion, and Reconciliation.” The symposium “proved even timelier than organizers could have possible imagined,” taking place less than a week after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. In the wake of seemingly endless tragedy, the Museum of African American History and other museums (most recently, the New Museum) have served as sites of support and discourse for black communities and #BlackLivesMatter allies.  This article was originally published on April 29, 2015.


The deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture had a problem. At the April 25 symposium “History, Rebellion, and Reconciliation,” her panel was a no-show. A law professor and two writers were late and had yet to appear.

So to fill the gap, Kinshasha Holman Conwill called upon “Brother Ellis” and with some heavy coaxing, she convinced Rex Ellis, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, to sing a duet—a rendition of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Ella’s Song.”

“We, who believe in freedom, cannot rest until it comes,” they sang. “Until the killing of a black man, a black woman’s son, is as important as the killing of a white man, a white woman’s son.”

That move, in many ways, defined the spirit of the day-long symposium. The event featured speakers that ranged from the award-winning director Ava DuVernay (Selma) to the Pittsburgh-based emcee and community activist Jasiri X, and pastor Osagyefo Sekou to Black Alliance for Just Immigration executive director Opal Tometi.

Read the full article here.


Shotgun Reviews

Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery

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, Maria Porges reviews Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery’s Minnesota Street Project location in San Francisco.

Lou Beach. Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!), 2016; collage; 33 x 26 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery. Photo: Lou Beach.

Lou Beach. Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!), 2016; collage; 33 x 26 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Fischer Gallery. Photo: Lou Beach.

In Lou Beach: End of Days at Jack Fischer Gallery’s Minnesota Street Project location in San Francisco, a selection of twenty-three recent collages by the artist provides a deeply satisfying experience of the inventive, funny, and sometimes slightly disturbing world of the Los Angeles artist’s unconscious. For many pieces, Beach begins with a patinaed background image: a vintage lithograph of a seaside sunset, a country road in autumn, or, as in Poltroons on Parade (Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!) (2016), a sunny view of ancient Roman buildings. Beach transforms these bland scenes by adding strange and hilarious figures that can be truthfully described as animal, vegetable, and mineral, built out of what must be a massive collection of paper ephemera and then sometimes enhanced with drawing or painting. Titles provide some clues as to the actions taking place, but to a certain extent, it is up to the viewer’s own id and superego to fill in the blanks.

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Boom: The Art of Resistance at Random Parts

Impeccably curated by artist–organizer Leslie Dreyer at Random Parts gallery, Boom: The Art of Resistance is an exhibition that does not advertise its impact, and it could be mistaken for “scrappy” if one ignored the precision of the show and the assumptions jammed into that word. Installed in the small storefront/apartment space in Oakland, a few of the show’s works are in the well-used kitchen, where gallery co-director Juan Carlos Quintana cooks his meals and lives his life. A visit to the show might easily segue into a hangout, a drink, or a party. It begs the question: What kinds of conversations can be had in what kinds of kitchens?

Boom: The Art of Resistance outdoor installation. Painted tent made by Dreyer and Zeph Fishlyn for Coalition on Homelessness' Tackle Homelessness/Superbowl action. 2016; Banners below made by Dreyer for Oakland's Fight for $15 march bridging the issues of low wages, real estate speculation and displacement.

Boom: The Art of Resistance. Outdoor installation: painted tent by Leslie Dreyer and Zeph Fishlyn for Coalition on Homelessness’ Tackle Homelessness/Superbowl action, 2016; banner by Leslie Dreyer for Oakland’s Fight for $15 march to address the issues of low wages, real-estate speculation, and displacement.

Such a gathering would occur in view of a 2001 documentary film—Boom: The Sound of Eviction, from which the show adopts the leading, econ-onomonopoetic part of its name—playing on a loop on a side table. The older Boom is a detailed account of the socioeconomic effects of the first major dot-com explosion of 1998–2001. The footage is grainier than today’s HD video, and the cars are a bit less streamlined, but the story remains uncannily the same. The influx of a global network of tech industry workers has incentivized evictions on a mass scale—around 1,000 a month, recently, by some accounts—under many different guises and justifications.

Random Parts is located in the East Lake neighborhood, east of Interstate 880 and just north of Fruitvale. It’s a neighborhood poised for the sort of “transformation” that tends to divide people into “dread” and “desire” camps according to their respective historically conditioned levels of access to capital. The waterfront is just beginning to witness the construction of Brooklyn Basin, the largest real-estate development project in the history of the East Bay. What sorts of kitchen conversations will this development, with its high-rise condos and boutique retail, make possible, and what others will it make impossible?

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Joan Jonas: From Away at DHC ART

As psycho-historian, I try to diagnose the schizophrenia of Western civilization from its images, in an autobiographical reflex. (Joan Jonas, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things)

Joan Jonas’ retrospective exhibition From Away occupies two buildings at DHC/ART in Montreal. Arriving at the basement’s miniature cinema felt like entering a cauldron of the Jonasian universe, and moving up and down in the tightly vertical first building is like inhabiting a literal corpus of Jonas’ oeuvre. In the second building, a more traditional set of gallery spaces shows a field of dreams: installations, objects, drawings, paintings, and snippets of Jonas’ recent performance at the Venice Biennale.

Installation view, Joan Jonas: From Away, 2016, DHC/ART. Joan Jonas, They Come to us Without a Word (Wind), 2015. Multimedia Installation (site-specific adaptation). Originally commissioned for the U.S. Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Courtesy of The Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. © DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

Joan Jonas. They Come to Us Without a Word (Wind), 2015; multimedia installation (site-specific adaptation); installation view, Joan Jonas: From Away, 2016, at DHC/ART. Originally commissioned for the U.S. Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. © DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

The central motif is a diaphanous fan. Think of a poised hand sturdily holding a fan, moving with intention and gravitas, the fan fanning away—and from away, so to speak. One might imagine the fan’s literal and metaphoric textures: brittle, translucent, spectral. In From Away, the diaphanous fan exists as a metaphoric cipher and temporal emblem, appearing in the form of always-moving bodies, translucent billowing fabrics, and passing poetic stories in the video-projection performances. From Away maps Jonas’ continuity in building and perfecting a mis en abyme technique, from the 1970s to the present, using mirrors, video, a video-monitor playback of live action, and drawings. Inherent to Jonas’ technique is her refusal to confront her subjects head on, and recurring elements that add to her “ideas of the diaphanous and the opaque” are “the motifs of wind, wand, water, mirrors and crystals.” [1,2]

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Letter from the Editor

Last week, Deadline reported that the New York Times discontinued regional coverage of the arts. Significantly, in her August 6 column, NYT Public Editor Liz Spayd asked, “Why should a newsroom that just announced lofty international ambitions spend resources covering news of no interest to readers in Beijing and London?” Below the surface of this question lies the implication that cultural events happening in smaller cities and towns—basically anything below a certain caliber of cache and sophistication—are uninteresting to those who live in the so-called centers of culture. Extending this line of thinking, we arrive at the notion that only big cities (and the people living and working in them) produce ideas that are worth talking about.

Romare Bearden. The Block II, 1972; collage of various papers with foil, paint, ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on seventeen fiberboard and plywood panels. © Romare Bearden Foundation

Romare Bearden. The Block II, 1972; collage of various papers with foil, paint, ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on seventeen fiberboard and plywood panels. © Romare Bearden Foundation

I’m dead set against that notion. Daily Serving exists because we believe that strong, thoughtful critical writing, regardless of where it is coming from or how small an area it is addressing, has the potential to be relevant to everyone. It’s the reason that my first major decision as editor was to adopt a program of “Shotgun Reviews”—anyone, anywhere in the world can publish an exhibition review with us. Instead of formulating a policy that location is what makes an artwork important, we trust our writers—and our readers—to bring their attention to projects and events that are happening in both large cities and small towns. Certainly our writers cover exhibitions in Shanghai, Los Angeles, London, and Berlin, but we also attend to what’s happening in places that aren’t signaled by large stars on a map: Wichita, Cleveland, Dhaka, Birmingham.

It’s not just a democratic impulse that drives us, but also a spirit of discovery and participation. Art is often reflective of the social and political circumstances that surround it, and an essay on artistic practices in one location brings visibility to an issue that might be of shared concern to citizens halfway around the planet; we may have as much to learn about ways of seeing and confronting the world from an artist in Jaipur as from one living in New York City. And that spirit of understanding is why, in addition to the contributions made by our own writers around the globe, we often circulate articles from other sources. Many excellent, locally focused arts blogs exist, and we amplify their work by excerpting and republishing it here. Approached from these perspectives, the regional is the very opposite of the provincial.

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Happy Labor Day!

Today is Labor Day in the United States, a day “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”

Ramiro Gomez. No Splash (after David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, 1967), 2013. Acrylic on canvas 96 x 96 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Osceola Refetoff.

Ramiro Gomez. No Splash (after David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, 1967), 2013. Acrylic on canvas; 96 x 96 in. Courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Osceola Refetoff.

In honor of the day, we present you with links for further reading:

More than a dozen articles on labor, artistic services, precarity, working for free, and related subjects are included in Art Practical’s Issue 5.4: Valuing Labor in the Arts

Labor Arts ”presents powerful images to further understanding of the past and present lives of working people”

Who are the laborers building your museum, and how are they treated? The artist-activists in the Gulf Labor coalition shine a light on the “coercive recruitment, and deplorable living and working conditions” of the migrant workers constructing the Guggenheim, Louvre, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi

Bone up on facts about working artists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention W.A.G.E. Have you read their wo/manifesto?


Summer Session

Summer Session – How to Make It: 10 Rules for Success From Art Curators

For our Back to School Summer Session, we’ve taken a look at education, pedagogy, and learning in the arts from a broad perspective, including work informed by school or schools of thought, investigations into the current state of academia, and resources for those interested in either self-directed or formal education. Today for our final installment we bring you an excerpt from an article by Cedar Pasori at Complex, who asked ten successful curators to give their best advice to those with an interest in curatorial practice. We hope this Summer Session has empowered our readers to make informed decisions about the relationship between scholarship and art practices, and that you’ve enjoyed the series. This article was originally published on September 22, 2013.

RoseLee Goldberg and Performa board member Todd Bishop at Relâche, 2012. Image via Paula Court and the original posting.

RoseLee Goldberg and Performa board member Todd Bishop at Relâche, 2012. Image via Paula Court and the original posting.

In the past, we’ve done the “How To Make It” series with artists in generalfreelance photographersfreelance writersfreelance illustratorsstreet artists, and art directors. Now, we’re bringing you a list of expert curators who have advice for a younger generation of artists and creatives. Especially during a time when the title “curator” gets thrown around a little too often, learn from those who are doing it best.

RoseLee Goldberg


Rule: Art history, art history, art history!

“Curating comes from having knowledge across a broad spectrum of contemporary culture, politics, and economics as well as a vast knowledge of art history from the beginning of time. You need to be in a constant pursuit of this information, to bring an extensive understanding of the vast archive of ideas and the huge bank of visual references from the past into the present.”

Read the full article here.