Link Roundup, Issue 4

I had a great, relaxing holiday season, how about you? The 3 of us hung out at my parents’ place in Arlington, TX with my brother and small cast of assorted old friends for Christmas. (Through all kinds of weather, see above photo for proof, the Friday pictured was Xmas Day.) Then for New Year’s Eve just us adults went down to Austin and spent time with other assorted old friends then hopped down to San Antonio to kick it with sister- and brother-in-law. God bless happily babysitting grandparents! Then yesterday we went and saw Kehinde Wiley: A new Republic at the FW Modern. So good, and closes Sunday! The show was at Brooklyn Museum earlier in 2015 and will subsequently travel to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art later this year.

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Below, a The Toast-heavy linky list:

Confession: New York City took my marshmallows.

The most powerless people in the art world, from Hyperallergic.

On emotional labor, revelatory on its own but do some more reading, mmkay?

Best of Art F City in 2015.

18 Children’s books with female main characters, from Cup of Jo.

Catching up with friends in other ways than getting drinks or coffee.

Hot dudes…of color, helloooo nurse!

Marvelous cousin doing important research, quoted in WaPo, and the original HBR article that piqued their interest.

Recently hooked on Jessica Jones – article contains sorta spoilers, but watch the show and read the article.

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An Anti-Racist Lens over a Background of Privilege

I’ve spent a lot of time in my adult life thinking about privilege, gender, race, power, and prejudice. I always felt “not racist” coming from a liberal middle-class white family and I had the good fortune to grow up in a place where not everybody looked like me. It didn’t quite feel like good fortune when I was in middle school and getting treated like an “other” for being white and not wearing all the fashions of the day. But I say wholeheartedly that it was good to have diversity in my neighborhood and schools.

I read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” when I was high school aged (after we’d moved from Houston to more-segregated Arlington). I got the message to a degree but didn’t internalize the the term “white privilege” until after college, when I attended a Unitarian Universalist conference for young adults in 2003 (as of this writing, 12 years ago. It comes into play later in the post). At the conference, during Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression workshops when white privilege was brought up, my visceral internal reaction was “But I’m a woman! Sexism!” It weirdly helped my understanding of intersecting oppressions / privileges that during the same workshop, a white man who grew up poor had a similarly visceral, and much more vocal, reaction to the idea of having privilege. Without realizing it at the moment, I used my white privilege to get him to simmer down. Hearing that he had white-skin privilege (even if he’d been marginalized for being poor) from a woman of color made him react as though she was saying directly to him “you are a bad person for being white, you are oppressing me.” From me, someone also being “accused” of racism, it was easier for him to understand. (I realize now that him taking up a lot of the group’s time and energy with *his* discomfort is itself an often-unrealized-by-privileged-people symptom of privilege.)

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot more time in workshops and conferences about racism and privilege since then, and I wanted to write today to give some example of how I still do some racist shit (gratuitous use of scare quotes ahead):

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The Road to Basquiat

It started with a movie, “Basquiat,” a bio-pic starring Jeffrey Wright, that came out when I was in high school. The charisma and mystique of the real-life character of Jean-Michel Basquiat as portrayed by that actor plus a great supporting cast (Gary Oldman, David Bowie, among others) at that impressionable age, got me interested in the work of Basquiat. I didn’t really “get” the art itself at the time, it seemed so scribbly.

So for many years I have had a soft spot in my heart for Basquiat because of the film, but never further than that, no real understanding of the work, just the artist as character. Fast-forward to October 2014 when I rushed to the Whitney Museum to catch the last days of their last exhibition programmed for the Marcel Breuer building: Jeff Koons. I made it to the show, I saw celebrities in line, I bumped into a good friend, all in all it was a great visit to the museum.

One of the greatest things about it was finding the variety of permanent collection works on display on the top level, after many floors of Koons. The exhibition of collection gems was the perfect palate cleanser after the balloon & toy explosion on the lower floors. After a museum-full of these kinds of things:

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Kids enjoying art: say what you will about Koons, the young ‘uns loved it!

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Museum “selfie” with the most famous art basketball. Photo by Kara Meyer.

I came up and got some air at the top of the Bauhaus behemoth. After a couple of turns, there it was.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Hollywood Africans” 1983, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Douglas S. Cramer. Thank you Douglas S. Cramer, thank you.

I had never seen “Hollywood Africans” before and it hit me, “This is why people love him!” I spent at least 20 minutes on this work alone. In retrospect, maybe I never really got Basquiat before because I’d never seen his work in person? But seeing this field of rich yellow and the strong striking contrasts of the cobalt blue and red and black messages was like nothing I’d seen. Fantastic.

Soon after that, I read a review in Hyperallergic  of an exhibition put on as part of Prospect.3 in New Orleans. Upon reading, I was seriously interested in seeing the show, Basquiat and the Bayou, curated by P.3 creative director Franklin Sirmans. Hmm, how to work this? I was living in NYC, that bi/triennial was in New Orleans. I had tried to talk my husband into going to see Prospect.1 in 2008 on a road trip to Texas but we skipped it at the last minute to spend more time with the family we were going to go visit.

And then we decided to drive to Texas again, in 2014 for Christmas and entering the new year of 2015. Okay! My plan-averse husband didn’t have any big ideas for the trip, just that we wanted to see our families, we wanted them to see our darling son, and that we wanted our dear dog to come along. Plans came together, and in all the discussions I inserted my desire (nay, my need) to go see that show, every. single. time. it came up.

Road trip entertainment tips: sock puppets. Dog is unimpressed.

We had an impressively easy journey down and some wonderful time with family and friends. Then it took us an inordinately long time to get ourselves to New Orleans once we set out for that leg of the trip. After many days trekking around Texas to see our people with no problems at all, the cruddy rainy weather and terrible traffic made a 5-hour drive into an 8 hour one. It started to seem like I was being punished for doing something just for us (OK, me) before we headed back to Brooklyn. We finally made it and had a late dinner at our hotel, which was literally around the corner from the museum that housed the show, the Ogden. That was a stroke of genius; I’d considered booking a different hotel, closer to other shows and cool things in NOLA, but went with the Modern and I’m so very glad.

I had hoped to get to the museum bright and early, but a 40-year-old husband and a 16-month-old child make their own time. Once we got there it was as I had hoped, phenomenal.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Zydeco” (1984). Installation view in “Basquiat and the Bayou” at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans. Photo by John d’Addario.

On the wall of the hallway leading to the exhibition was an extensive timeline of Basquiat’s life. In those moments of reading about Basquiat’s short time in the world it was like the grief of his death was finally (or starting?) to sink in. God, what might his work have been like in his later years? And it was affecting me in a different way too, as I lost my youngest brother to a heroin overdose less than a year before. And so the reality of the universe losing a bright star due to drugs really, truly hit home.

The show was tight and very carefully lit, an excellent touch. It was a quiet Sunday when we went in, but more and more people arrived as I cruised the gallery a second and third time. There was also an exhibition of Herbert Singleton’s wood carvings in an adjacent gallery, a very nice compliment.

I was in such a daze the rest of our visit, high on art. We saw a lot of great stuff at that little museum, an extensive local collection of “outsider” art, a permanent collection galleries with both new and familiar names, and I snapped up the last catalogue of the show on the shelf (the clerk assured me there were more in storage). We didn’t end up seeing any other shows in P.3, even at the Contemporary Art Center across the street, but I was still satisfied. That one show, those 9 paintings plus the pleasant Ogden, made that trek to New Orleans worthwhile to me. Big thanks to John d’Addario for the review that led me there.

We did also get to go to the build shed of Krewe du Vieux (links to image search, possibly NSFW) with floats in various stages of construction. I love New Orleans!

Bonus shot: Baby’s first beignets. 

Permanent Collection Re-Hang at the Fort Worth Modern

Visiting the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth was a pleasant rediscovery, since I’d been in New York for the majority of the time the Modern has been open in its Tadao Ando-designed building in museum district. Full disclosure: I may be biased, I have such warm fuzzy feelings for that area of Cowtown. I went to high school in nearby Arlington and spent many hours on the Kimbell Museum’s lawn in high school and during college breaks. I only went to the Modern once before they opened the Ando building in 2002, and didn’t have the faintest idea how strong their collection was.  

In a new installation of permanent collection works the curators have given us fresh eyes to see the undersung collection. In the smaller of the second floor gallery spaces, usually reserved for director-favorite Sean Scully, is a Robert Motherwell survey  of 70+ works, all from the museum’s extensive holdings. For some reason I did not have it in my head that Motherwell was making his Elegies to the Spanish Republic until as late as 1990. Schooled! That is one long-running series, as he began making them in 1948.

Not an Elegy: Robert Motherwell, “The Garden Window (Open No. 110),” 1969. 

The first floor galleries give a fresh look at items in the collection that have spent some time in storage, as over half of the 60+ pieces currently on view were not in the previous permanent collection installation. Also new is that the works are not arranged strictly by chronology, but in a more narrative theme of movements. Beginning with the figurative, led by heavy hitters like Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Milton Avery,  and followed by an entire gallery of Philip Guston, the viewer is led through abstract works, pop art, then into the minimal. Some of my favorites included Ben Shahn’s “Allegory,” several Morris Louis canvases that do not disappoint, and “Male Head IV” by new-to-me artist David Bates.  

The museum has a strong showing of permanent installations, most notably works with spaces designed around them: Martin Puryear’s ever-so-tall “Ladder for Booker T. Washington,” and Anselm Kiefer’s “Book with Wings” in its unusual round gallery. I am as impressed by that round gallery as I am by the artwork itself (which is to say, I don’t love the sculpture but I do love the oval-shaped home). Two other permanent highlights of a visit to the museum are Richard Serra’s “Vortex” in the front of the building and Roxy Paine’s “Conjoined” on the back lawn. Visible from many angles within the museum and cafe, “Conjoined” gleams silver in the sunlight, set off by the green lawn across the reflecting pool, a welcome bit of shiny irregularity against the careful vertical and horizontal lines of the building itself. Interesting note: when looking up the Paine trees on The Modern’s site and in a Google image search, I found that I disliked many of the images. Nearly all are taken from the vantage point of the back wall of the sculpture garden, with the building in the background. Truly, the building is lovely, but those shots don’t do the sculpture much justice. A fresh reminder of how important it is to see art in person whenever possible, eh?

Straight lines and reflections: #museumselfie with a Jenny Holzer in the background.

Once I’ve seen the full exhibition of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic (through Jan. 10, 2016) I’ll share here, and there is a Frank Stella retrospective in the pipes, to open April 17, 2016.

Greetings Earthlings! Transitions and Impressions

Leaving Brooklyn, oy vei!

After 10 years in Brooklyn, NY, I have returned to my home state of Texas. I left Dallas in 2005 to go to graduate school full-time in Visual Arts Administration at New York University. After completing the program in 2 years, my husband Jonah and I stayed on in our adopted city of Brooklyn for 8 more. We returned in August 2015 and are currently based in Waco.

Two things I miss about NYC so far: street art and fall color

We had a blast in “The City” and we’re making the most of our time in Texas while we’re relatively unscheduled. I’ve visited lots of museums and art organizations in our short time back, it’s fun to be a tourist in a place you already know. Fort Worth has long been a favorite because of the wonderful Kimbell and I had a chance to visit the Fort Worth Modern’s new permanent collection re-installation (more on that in a later post), and to have a tiny peek into their since-opened Kehinde Wiley survey as it was being installed. Rumor has it that the artist thinks it looks better in Fort Worth than at its first stop at the Brooklyn Museum. (Don’t worry BK, you’re still one of my favorites!)

Speaking of the Brooklyn Museum, one of their current shows is an exhibition we saw during its first stop at Austin’s BlantonImpressionism and the Caribbean: Fransisco Oller and His Transatlantic World (through Jan. 3, 2016). Absolutely worth your time if you are able to see it. There are quite a few lovely Oller paintings, a few pieces by familiar masters (Cézanne, Monet, Church, Homer)*, and several of the contextual pieces by less-known contemporaries were what really took my breath away.

My favorite of the Oller works in the exhibition, very Courbet.

A nice surprise from our August visit to the Blanton was Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm (through Nov. 15, 2015). Exploring the earliest, darkest Grimm fairy tales, the artist envisions key scenes from both well-known and unknown Grimm stories in vibrant, sometimes disturbing drawings. The exhibition is a quickie-but-goodie, and the catalogue is high on my Christmas list.

* Big props to the museums that own these artworks for having their info available online! My beloved Brooklyn Museum, and the Wadsworth Athenaeum