Museums, Power, Protest

Hey everyone! It was so nice to be back in class with you this week for our final session before the review and group projects. Thank you for bringing so much nuance and thoughtfulness to our discussions about museums and art institutions today. Here are some of those big, lingering questions without clear answers. I hope we can keep pondering!

Who should get to control where art goes and how it is contextualized?

How important is the experience of the museum as education about other cultures, and when is it more important to respect the cultural significance or intended use of something instead?

Should artworks that were taken or looted originally be returned or remain in place? What kind of process might fairly address this?

How should museums be funded and supported? Are there politics or money sources that should not be connected to them?

Some Relevant Exhibits!

There are some great exhibits up that might be of interest to you and that reference works and artists we’ve talked about in class. If you check them out, let us know what you think!

Kay WalkingStick + Hudson River School at New York Historical Society

Judy Chicago at The New Museum

Dreaming of Home at the Leslie Lohman Gallery
(includes work by Catherine Opie!)

Our Exquisite Corpses!

Loved seeing the bizarre and amazing collaborative drawings you made today while playing “Exquisite Corpse” — the Surrealists would be proud of your strange, fun creations!

Odalisque Spotted in the Lehman Art Gallery

Super relevant to our last class discussion about Orientalism and how women were pictured by artists like Ingres and others: the on-campus art gallery (upstairs in the same building we meet for class!) has a show running right now addressing the female gaze. And it includes the Odalisque as well as the Slave Market painting we saw. This show puts these works and other in a critical context — I recommend checking it out!

Met Visit!

Thanks to those who came out to the Met Museum on Saturday — it was so fun to explore several exhibitions with you. We saw a show about American art and the labor movement, work by the Impressionists, and the Hudson River School paintings (including the Thomas Cole painting we analyzed on our first class session!), among other things along the way! Can’t wait to see what you all reflect on from your museum visits when we talk about museums and institutions.

Art and Memory/Memorials

We ended last class (a heavy one where we looked at depictions and documentation of war and conflict) examining the controversy over Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. I want to leave our final question here as a prompt for continuing that reflection — How does art shape the collective or national memory of conflict? Who do you think should decide how war and remembered and through what kind of process?

These don’t have easy answers, but art plays an important role in shaping these narratives.

Photo by Ron Gilbert via Flickr, Creative Commons License

Spiritual Experiences of Art and Color

In light of our conversations about Symbolism, Spiritualism, and the ways in which artists used their work to give viewers a transcendent, emotional, or mystical experience, I encourage you to go to see a Mark Rothko in person and see what you get from it! Alliya’s suggestion of bringing a notebook and sitting for a while with the painting is a great one. There are Rothko color field paintings on display at the Met and a couple of them at the MoMA too. If you go, tell us what you felt or discovered (or if you didn’t at all think it made you feel anything!)

Jacob Lawrence and James Van Der Zee

We covered a lot during our session around Urban Space! If you want to see the all 60 panels of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series online, there’s a nice presentation of it on the Phillips Collection website. And if you’d like to see more of James Van Der Zee’s images from the Harlem Renaissance, this page from a previous exhibition has quite a few, and so does this one. The whole collection is now going to be co-managed by the Met Museum and Studio Museum in Harlem — about 20,000 prints and 30,000 negatives!

Nature, and the Trickiness of Defining Land Art!

It was great to see your takes and diagrams in respond to Rosalind Krauss’s dilemma: defining landscape, architecture, sculpture and Land Art (which also overlap!) I’ve attached photos below to document what you all came up with. Safe to say it can be hard to differentiate these four once we really start to think about them philosophically! If you are interested in seeing a contemporary Land Artist in action, I highly recommend watching either of the documentaries about Andy Goldsworthy mentioned in class: Rivers and Tides (2001) and Leaning Into the Wind (2018).

First Class: Beyonce and Jay-Z at the Louvre

Thanks for a great first class everyone! If you want to rewatch the Beyonce and Jay-Z music video in the Louvre Museum (and look for more art moments) it’s linked below. And there’s a great podcast episode about it (Still Processing with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham) if you’re interested!

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