DETROIT — The People’s Biennial at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) successfully draws on the founding concept of the biennial art event, with the original model of the Venice Biennale in 1895 intended to be a sort of World’s Fair of contemporary art.
MIAMI — There are many stories about the origins of art: ancient Greek historian Pliny suggested art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover’s shadow on a wall, while an Asian legend tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint his reflection in a pool of water. What these two stories share is the emphasis on the rendering of people as a foundational element of art. Fast-forward many millenia, when the story of high-priced contemporary art is vastly different from those origin stories, and walking through the latest incarnation of Art Basel Miami Beach, I was struck by the marginalization of the human form in the blue-chip work on display. What happened?
MIAMI — Historically, the relationship of the black identity to sex is loaded and remains a deeply complex conversation. Africa’s black identity history is marred by images of the “African Hottentot Venus” Saartjie Baartman who was put on display and sent across the world like a circus animal before being dismembered for study purposes following her death. This sexualized commodification of the human body underpinned the slave trade, which greatly impacted the entire Caribbean region.
Artist Hank Willis Thomas, in an e-mailed response to my December 17 article, “Lawyers Weigh In on Appropriation Art and Fair Use,” made this clarification …
The New York City Bar Association’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Appropriation: Contemporary Art After Cariou v. Prince” was, as billed, “a frank discussion of fair use and artistic practice.” And it was, indeed, frank, with all six panelists speaking plainly and tough audience questions encouraged. But it was also, clouded and meandering, the way that all intellectual property discussions are.
The Museum of Art and Design, New York’s The Global Africa Project makes an audacious claim: to present the art, design, architecture, and craft of the contemporary African diaspora. Given that Africa is the world’s second largest continent, with a population of over one billion dispersed among 54 distinct countries—never mind the millions of people of African descent living elsewhere—any attempt to survey its production and influence seems impossible. However, the curators — Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, formerly director of the Studio Museum in Harlem and currently the Charles Bronfman Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, and Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at Maryland Institute College of Art — have embraced the unwieldiness of the notion of “Africa,” creating an exhibition that intentionally raises more questions than it answers.
In recognition of the Fourth of July, I interviewed groundbreaking artist “Dread” Scott Tyler, whose work is directly engaged in challenging public perception of and reactions to US politics and history. He answered my questions about his desire to engage, America’s relationship to freedom of expression today, nationalism, and the lack of critical discourse around his work.