Friday, June 4, 2021

Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

Nari Ward's "Peace Keeper"

"Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America," currently completing a run at the New Museum, is mostly about grief. You feel it in Nari Ward’s "Peace Keeper," an emblematically tarred and feathered, burnt out hearse, surrounded by bars, (first created for the Whitney Biennial in l995). You hear it in the shrieks and cries of Garrett Bradley's film Alone, which deals with the apartheid world of incarceration. But many of artworks in the show, which includes the work of Julie Mehretu, employ the modernist medium to challenge and complexify their own message. “The adoption of abstraction as a tool for thinking through questions of representation and visibility” is the intriguing phraseology that’s used to describe the ecumenical and innovative styles in the introductory notes. Mark Bradford’s “Untitled” (2000) takes off from a cartographical study issued after the Watts riots in 1965 and exemplifies the way in which the surface materials and monumentality of a painting itself can become a language. Charles Gaines creates a revolutionary manifesto out of musical notation and there are instances of an almost dialectical repose such as the moment in Rashid Johnson’s massive grid like installation "Antoine’s Organ" (2016) where the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous finds its way into a pile that includes Randall Kennedy’s Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal. As for "grievance," it's the dark cloud of racial hatred that infuses and haunts every artwork in this show.

Read "Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

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