SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There are few artists who have been able to become a household name in the art world and still maintain a modesty to their person and in their work.
This year, Carrie Mae Weems gets the distinctive honor of becoming the first African-American woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim — her first major exhibition at any New York museum, ever. It’s one of those honors that sits at an awkward intersection, both disappointing and profound.
There are so many fault lines between art and politics, navigating them can feel dizzying and often futile. Conversations about identity politics, economics, heritage, corrective curating, and the broader issues of inclusion and exclusion are important but can be a drag on art itself, to the point where it can seem like the work vanishes behind real or imagined social mores. Such was the case with Ken Johnson’s review last fall in the New York Times of MoMA PS1’s Now Dig this! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 and the debate it engendered. The review spurned a lot of groaning about uninformed opinions and who constitute the “gatekeepers” of the art canon. A petition for the Times to reconcile this “editorial lapse” with its normally higher standard of writing was started as angry voices accumulated, gaining over 1,600 signatures.
In an effort to solidify gaps in its African American, American, and contemporary art holdings, the Brooklyn Museum has acquired 44 works by 26 artists that are part of what they are describing as an important collection of works created in conjunction with the Black Arts Movement of the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
Al Loving (1935–2005) was born in Detroit and studied art at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the University of Michigan. Like many art students then and now, he kept up with what was going on in New York through art magazines. In 1968, when he moved to New York City, he was fully versed in the hard-edged abstraction and shaped canvases of Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland.