I went to an event at the Art Institute Friday night. It was an artists’ talk with Dawoud Bey, Theaster Gates, and Kehinde Wiley, “New Paradigms: How Are ‘We’ Influencing Art??”. I shouldn’t have to tell you this talk was great. But I will.
It was awesome. Each artist took turns talking about their work, which was projected on a wall behind them. Then they sat in chairs and had a brief dialog about their work. Finally they took questions from the audience. And then everybody in the audience stampeded to the free reception (free food, y’all!).
Um, I didn’t take notes on the talk. I’m trying to remember:
- All of these guys were pretty funny.
- Dawoud and Kehinde make portraits.
- Kehinde was not trying to hear anything about truth in portraiture. “Portraits are lies.”
- Theaster is a performance artist and a potter who currently has a temple built at the Whitney. He currently has fellow artists attending the temple as monks of this temple so they’re getting paid.
There was a fair amount of dialog on the topic of African-American artists getting recognition from the institutional art world. Also some words on legacy-making and the history of African-American artists who struggled previously. Kehinde was trying to have it. I think what he was trying to say was that he was here now, he had a career that was successful, and frankly wasn’t all that interested in dwelling on the past. Though he did acknowledge that certainly there were folks who came before him who were important.
I feel like I’m getting this wrong, so I’ll stop. Though I have to say that while attending the talk and reception solo was alright, it would have been nice to have a pal along. If only so I didn’t feel so conspicuous at the reception afterwards, taking up a whole table by myself while I helped myself to some catfish and greens.