LOS ANGELES — I entered UCLA’s Ackerman Student Union hoping to blend in with the student body, find my way to a recently uncovered mural, and document the public’s reactions with an inconspicuous pinhole camera. But the building is a maze of chain eateries. And, after I pass a Carl’s Jr. for the second time, I accept that I’m lost. I turn right at the Jamba Juice and ask for directions.
Art is as much about context as it is process. The time and place of its creation, the manner in which it is displayed — these factors can influence a work’s reception much more than the technical precision of its aesthetics.
And so I’m told: “I believe it’s up one floor … just past Panda Express.”
Sure enough, after ascending a flight of stairs, I find the 10-by-27-foot mural tucked behind the Panda Express checkout line. To maintain my cover I buy a small order of Orange Chicken and sit down at one of the long formica tables. “The Black Experience” was painted in 1970 by seven African American students in the wake of the Kent State shootings. The mural features their own portraits (plus one professor) composed of iconic images of black cultural leaders.
Then, in 1992, it was covered over during a remodel of the Student Union.
For 22 years those eight faces remained blocked by a slab of beige drywall. But an effort launched in 2012 to uncover and restore the mural was finally realized last week by the Afrikan Student Union, a professor and two students who were instrumental in creating the work.
Now uncovered, the sepia collage is striking. Eyes behind eyes pierce the viewer’s gaze and tell their stories — stories built upon a cultural milieu of protest and reform. But compared to the fluorescent glow and sterile sheen of the food court, the mural’s emotional depth falls flat.
I pick at the sickly sweet chicken while casually angling the pinhole’s shutter toward the students — mostly one to a table — around me. A jock alternately pecks at his salad and iPhone screen. Two Hispanic food service workers stand just in front of the mural’s placard, deep in conversation, about everything but the message that looms over their heads. Then a young Asian man in front of me looks up, straight at “The Black Experience.” Recognition registers on his face. He found what he was looking for … and he tilts his head back down to his Instagram feed to type a comment.
I crack open my fortune cookie, hoping for some inspiration of my own. Just then, a student wanders over to the mural’s placard. He reads for a moment and then looks across the dining hall. We lock eyes. He stiffens, pretends he’s lost, and darts out an exit door so quickly that the slow exposure of my pinhole can’t even capture his existence.
I look down at the tiny piece of paper surrounded by cookie crumbs on the table top: “Everything you do is beautiful and inspiring.”
Just as long as it’s in the right context …
Plaintiff Cheri Pierson accuses the disgraced financier of a “brutal” sexual attack at the Manhattan mansion of Jeffrey Epstein.
At the heart of What if the Matriarchy Was Here All Along? is the idea that matriarchy never really died but rather has transformed.
Larry Towell’s images reveal a little-seen, isolated world and raise questions about the unforgiving impact of tradition on families.
Mexican photographer Alfredo De Stefano’s photographs of barren deserts and other works reflecting on the climate crisis will be displayed in a not-for-sale section.
SCAD’s booth at Design Miami/ features glazed tiles by alumni artists Nicolas Barrera, Lauren Clay, Gonzalo Hernandez, Cory Imig, Abel Macias, and Nikita Nagpal.
Whether Musk’s weird still life post was an act of trolling or an act of cringe is up to you, but the memes speak for themselves.
For roughly half an hour, art collectors had to consider a world in which they didn’t get that Alex Katz work.
Join the New-York Historical Society on December 9 for a virtual conversation with Kellie Jones, Rujeko Hockley, and Cameron Shaw on the past, present, and future of Black art in the US.
From art fairs to alternative spaces that may not be on your radar, here’s a run-down of what to see (and eat and sip) in Miami. No NFTs, we promise.
Protests are erupting across the country in response to President Xi Jinping’s strict zero-COVID policy.
The unique MFASA at the Institute of American Indian Arts offers mentorships with world-renowned Indigenous artists, flexible schedules, and access to one of the US’s cultural capitals.
What does it mean when the world’s richest person trolls us?
Ghenie’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe are a relentless representation of a howling, turbulent tragedy, a face broken into crude sideways slewings and gougings and gorgings of paint.