Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Art World Turns

The Evangelicals say that the Rapture is rapidly approaching and I am not sure what to make of the end of the world and the start of the evermore on earth (my interpretation of the Rapture here with apologies if I got it wrong).  What has already arrived is the long awaited day when Europe and their yearly art festivals would open entry to other neglected artists to represent their disregarded nations of the world.  Africa, the Middle East and I suppose everyone is welcome now at major art festivals, the Venice Biennale, case in point.

Visitors don't get me wrong, I love the Italians and European culture but my question is, why now?  Why ever?  Why not before, the Middle East artists, the African American male artists and so on?  Although I am not sure I will be able to find answers to these questions, it is interesting that now, even the N'words from the United States can participate!  Imagine that.

Is it that the art world has grown up that it has decided to make a bit of room for other viewpoints, other visions and other standards of beauty as well as sheer ugliness (these modalities are universal after all). 

Since I am not an art historian, I may not be able to on my own get to the answer of the questions I pose here but that does not stop me from wondering and from looking to find answers.  I know, it might be like asking why did the end of slavery end when it did?  Why not sooner?  Why not later?  That too would take a historian to put perspective and all that goes with it, in order to answer the question. 

Whatever the case may be, I leave this as an open ended discussion for future analysis and hopefully the trend marks a true beginning.  A crew of African American (male) artists show this year in Italy at one or another main art events.  This Venice Biennale may be the location, I'm not entirely sure but then, my question goes to why just males?  Where are the African American female artists who could represent (but please, not the usual suspects, KW (I'll use initials here but you can figure it out, I'm sure) or other regressive and stereotypical types)?  Where are we in the mix?  The obvious answer is that we are not in the mix, not that I know of, as yet.  Ah, left out even until the end, what does that say?  Wouldn't it be thrilling that when the time did arrive for African American artists who happen to be women, when the best of the bunch had the opportunity to represent overseas in Europe (if we'll ever "represent" very much here at home). 

One can hope and wish and pray and hold one's breath but, I have the feeling when the time arrives for Black women, the old worn, tried and true to the stereotype visions of slavery times in one context, one form of another will be there representing the United States and where exactly will the forward looking visionary African American artists who just happen to be women be in the mix?  I think we will see what is put forward as American culture, beauty and meaning will be a backwards looking one when the world turns to spotlight the best that our country has to offer.  It doesn't have to be the case and it will be interesting to see who the curators will be to perpetuate the same, old, weary and tragic American legacy or a forward looking, visionary contribution that is alive in the work of American artists who look to the present day and perhaps, just maybe, a more glorious future for themselves and for all of us vis-a-vis, the creation of an American art history of caliber and worth. 

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