Opening the Sunday New York Times this weekend, I was struck by the front-page article with the following title, “The March into the Museum, Black Artists, Long Neglected, Join and Expanding Canon.” As the article resonated with the lecture that I was already planning for today, about art and postmodernism, I altered the content of the presentation to include a short discussion about this piece in The New York Times. As we have been discussing in my class all semester, history is fluid and change often comes from tensions pointed out by under-represented groups. Postmodernism, by necessity, is full of historical revisionism; in order to correct the record and to create accurate historical narratives about art it is essential to keep evolving the story. This is what Art Historian Henry Sayre refers to as the “contingency, multiplicity and polyvocality” of the postmodern condition. As progressive teachers and mentors, it is incumbent upon us to describe the actual role of the “other” in the creation of art throughout history and in the contemporary era.
The gesture that The Times makes with this piece cannot be taken for granted; the paper still occupies a significant place in contemporary culture. What is amazing to me, is that the editors chose to make this statement so forcefully, not in the arts section, but front and center directly under the masthead. This is a gesture that is both complicated and timely and one that will resonate deeply within the contemporary art world and also in the culture at large. It is a gesture of inclusion and an acknowledgement that the art world is getting its house in order and attempting to make the story right. There is more to do for sure, however this is a welcome evolution and one that should be noted.
I urge you to read the entire piece and to talk about it as a watershed moment; it most certainly is.
Chair, Art Department