Required Reading

This week, Soul of a Nation in Arkansas, “female monsters” in art, new “golden age” of black painting, trends at Milan Design Week, Zaha Hadid’s only built house is complete, and more.

Zaha Hadid’s only house has finally been completed outside Moscow. More images on Dezeen (via Dezeen)

How would “Soul of a Nation”—this very black art made in the 1960s to 1980s—look in a museum situated in one of the whiter areas of Arkansas? The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Walmart billionaire Alice Walton, is made up of several attractive buildings, thoughtfully and expensively designed by Moshe Safdie and nestled among hilly woods on the northern outskirts of Bentonville.

While the Crystal Bridges Museum feels East Asian in aesthetic style, downtown Bentonville speaks in another design register. Downtown is compact, with neat storefronts surrounding a grassy central square. Fitting in nicely among the storefronts is the Walmart Museum, a 1950s-themed general store and soda fountain where clean-cut young white people serve you with a smile. No hint of the 1960s civil rights sit-ins obstructs this historical reenactment. The Confederate monument (erected in 1908) towering over the town square has caused some well-mannered chagrin among the locals. Everybody is very, very nice, though little children in the soda fountain couldn’t stop staring at me.

While viewing Art of Asia, it became clear that the archetype of the female creator-destructor is centuries old, as long as you’re looking closely and in the right places. While Western art history presents empowered, sexually liberated, and creative women as an anomaly, Eastern religions based in India, Nepal, and Tibet have long recognized the obvious dynamism of women as multi-faceted and contradictory goddesses and depicted them as such. Although there are plenty of male dieties represented in this show of sculpture, prints, books, and devotional objects, I was drawn immediately to several prominently placed images of Devi, the goddess whose force is believed to animate all living things and aspects of the natural and generative world—including destruction, reproduction, and copulation.

Today, however, it seems like everywhere you look there are painting exhibitions by black artists using the black figure as a way not only to correct the art historical record, but to show black folks as they see them. The generations of painters who have followed Hendricks and Marshall, including youngish artists like Jordan Casteel, Devan Shimoyama, Mario Moore, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, who was just awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant, are grappling with the responsibility of representation—to use painting as a tool to broadly address identity, gender, and contemporary personal and social politics.

The Repellent Fence simultaneously denaturalizes and socializes the US-Mexico border, working against its common misrepresentation as an evacuated no man’s land. It draws our attention, instead, to the dense social relations and operations that characterize “the most geospatially contested area in [the] Hemisphere,” especially as they pertain to indigenous people, who are both divided by the border and erased from discourses about it, yet persist nonetheless. While Postcommodity has created other works that engage this same geography—most notably, A Very Long Line (2016), which was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial—Chacon, Martínez, and Twist don’t consider themselves to be “border artists” per se.11 Rather, such pieces get at the structural and ongoing forms of dispossession tied to “the militarization of ancestral homelands,” wherein the border fence acts as a “filter of bodies and goods—a mediator of imperialism, violence, market systems, and violence capitalism.”

Is it useful to see the West Tofts axe as sculpture? What about the earlier group of flint axes excavated in Boxgrove, outside Chichester in West Sussex, in the 1980s and 1990s? The evidence discovered on the Pleistocene site includes the bones of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, among them creatures – bear, hyena, rhinoceros, elephant – no longer indigenous and sometimes extinct. All these remains tell a story, but the most vivid centres on a group of hominin hunters who brought down and butchered a horse using axes knapped and then abandoned on site. Millennia later, the discards remained undisturbed, yielding an enormous amount of information on their making and use. We can be certain they were used against animals grazing and hunting on site. In the aftermath, not only bare bones but also axes and flakes were abandoned where they fell. Perhaps the hunters, now laden with fresh meat, needed to lighten their load.

  • The appearance of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of Congress dominated headlines most of this past week, and if you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal this chart might help you understand why:

And here’s another unbelievable internet stat:

And finally here’s a supercut of Zuckerberg saying “Senator” dozens of times.

Vegan-friendly materials

Veganism is on the rise all over the world, so it was only a matter of time before this started to affect the design industry.

Following the launch of the Vegan Homeware Awards last year, Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana plans to delve further into what is possible in design without cruelty to animals. He plans to reveal the results in an exhibition in the 5Vie district.


six messages no reply tell me what I have to do

“That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth.”

In this fashion, The Joy of Painting exemplifies the sort of enriching programming unlikely to exist were economics the driving factor. Ross is a work of art that just happened to make works of art. Had monetization been a necessity, we’d never have heard of him.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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