Author Archive

Student Artwork Update: Gregory Mayes

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

We are pleased to present photographs by SVACE student Gregory Mayes! Gregory created this artwork in conjunction with the course, Digital Photography I.

Photo by Gregory Mayes

Photo by Gregory Mayes

Gregory writes: “I had a realization not long ago while walking the streets of New York – my view of the world had shrunk to a corridor ten feet wide and one story high. I paused a moment to expand my gaze, taking in the vibrant details of urban life that I had allowed to become mundane. It is these details perceived in our periphery – a flicker of reflection, movement of shadow or burst of color – which reaffirm the authenticity of our reality.”

Photo by Gregory Mayes

Photo by Gregory Mayes

“I have attempted to capture these details through this series of photographs. To remove them from context and separate into the basic elements of shape, line and color. To transform into something only seen by our subconscious.”

Photo by Gregory Mayes

Photo by Gregory Mayes

“New York is a city with an enormous gravitational pull – it beckoned me almost five years ago. It draws people from around the world, many wishing to practice alchemy on themselves. It was the same for me, a transmutation that is still taking form. I intend to make gold of that.”

Photo by Gregory Mayes

Photo by Gregory Mayes

See Gregory’s work in our exhibition space at 209 East 23rd Street, until April 30!

Student Artwork Update: Nivia Hernandez

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

We are pleased to present photographs by SVACE student Nivia Hernandez! Nivia created this artwork in conjunction with the course, Digital Photography I.

Photo by Nivia Hernandez

Photo by Nivia Hernandez

Nivia writes: “From a very young age, we are taught to hold on to things and/or people that bring us comfort, but as we grow and experience pleasure, pain, and loss we may learn to let go and appreciate the simple things in life. Through these photographs, the subjects I have observed and engaged with express in a simple form that letting go, being still, and appreciating the given moment is a path to vibrant happiness, comfort and freedom.”

Photo by Nivia Hernandez

Photo by Nivia Hernandez

See Nivia’s work in our exhibition space at 380 Second Avenue, 8th floor, until May 31! Find more at Nivia’s website and Instagram.

Weekend Hot Links

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Happy Friday! Get creative this weekend with recent art, design, and culture stories shared by the SVACE faculty and community.

Image via Washington Post

Same Love (Washington Post): ‘Love Is Love’ comic book raises $165K for Orlando Pulse tragedy victims. (via SVA MFA Visual Narrative)

Raising Bull (USA Today): For how long will “Fearless Girl” occupy Wall Street? (via SVA MFA Art Writing)

Social Eyes (Unreasonable): How does social design make a difference? (via SVA Design for Social Innovation)

Crossed Paths (Storybench): On visualizing the Trumps’ 500+ conflicts of interest. (via SVA MFA Visual Narrative)

Kitchen Aid (Inc.): Make the kitchen the heart of your office. (via SVA Products of Design)

Master Ruler (WIRED): One ruler to rule them all. (via SVA News)

See more updates and stories on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

Weekend Hot Links

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Happy Friday! Ring in spring and the weekend today with recent art, design, and culture stories shared by the SVACE faculty and community.

Image via New York Magazine

Image via New York Magazine

Think Pink (New York): Did you know this was your favorite color? (via SVA News)

Wonder Women (New York): Female art professors on their favorite female artists. (via SVA News)

Art Speak (Lit Hub): How comics legend Art Spiegelman grapples with history’s darkest hours. (via Steven Heller)

Reality Bites (Fast Co. Design): Here’s a taste of what augmented reality means for art. (via SVA Products of Design)

Work Woes (Adweek): Are ad agencies overdoing it? (via Mark Burk)

Haring’s Hues (Dangerous Minds): Keith Haring’s coloring book is for all ages. (via SVA MFA Visual Narrative)

See more updates and stories on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

Open Casket

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

“The painting must go,” writes Hannah Black. Like a chant, she reprises the demand throughout an open letter to the Whitney Biennial curators, in response to Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket,” a painting of Emmett Till’s corpse.1

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Artist Parker Bright protesting at the Whitney Biennial. Photo: Michael Bilsborough

“Neither are we all completely unknowable,” writes Dana Schutz. Beyond racial divisions, she seems to plea, she is a mother who happens to be white, she can relate to Mamie Till-Mobley. “My engagement with this image was through empathy with his mother.”2

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Parker Bright at the Whitney. Photo: Michael Bilsborough

“A white woman had Emmett Till killed,” said Parker Bright to me, while he was physically protesting in front of “Open Casket.” His shirt read, “Black Death Spectacle.”

Hannah Black urges the destruction of “Open Casket,” accusing Dana Schutz of being so careless as to “transmute Black suffering into profit and fun.” Moreover, Schutz has overstepped the boundaries of subject matter, with damaging consequences.

“Black people are telling her that the painting has caused unnecessary hurt, she and you must accept the truth of this,” writes Black.

The Whitney curators classify “hurt” as “tremendous emotional resonance.”

Meanwhile, Henry Taylor’s painting of a police officer shooting Philando Castile sums up a horrifying plague of police violence against Black men, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and too many more. The violence is a catastrophe, as is the “spectacle” opposed by Parker Bright and Hannah Black:

“A similarly high-stakes conversation has been going on about the willingness of a largely non-Black media to share images and footage of Black people in torment and distress or even at the moment of death, evoking deeply shameful white American traditions such as the public lynching.”

Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH! (2017), Photo: Hyperallergic

Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!”, 2017, Photo: Hyperallergic

Like Emmett Till’s casket, Philando Castile’s unjustifiable death was a spectacle that galvanized protest actions. But at the Whitney, nobody is protesting Henry Taylor’s painting, partly because Henry Taylor is Black.3

Hannah Black’s letter describes a world of artistic freedom based on binary (or trinary) race realities: Black, white, Non-Black. So how do we address non-Black artists appropriating images of lynching?


Robert Gober, “Hanging Man / Sleeping Man,” 1989 © 2017 Robert Gober

Robert Gober? His “Hanging Man/ Sleeping Man” (1989) repeats a lynching as a pattern motif. Is it permissible because it implicates “white obliviousness and sins of omission,” as suggested by Thomas Micchelli in Hyperallergic?

Paul Chan, "My birds... trash... the future.," 2004, Photo: Greene Naftali

Paul Chan, “My birds… trash… the future.,” 2004, Photo: Greene Naftali

Paul Chan? His apocalyptic animated video, “My birds…trash…the future” (2004) depicted a lynching, almost in line with the “tradition of the lynched figure left out in public view as a warning to the black community,” something Emmett Till’s mother reversed, as described by Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye in The New Republic. They write:

“Her son’s body would not be made into a spectacle nor be a symbol for black fear and white supremacy. By controlling the way that his body looked, Mobley was able to define its legacy. Although he was taken from her, the way lynched Americans were taken from their families, she was able to invert the final stage of public murder, which is spectacle.”

Demetrius Oliver, "Till," 2004

Demetrius Oliver, “Till,” 2004

Another artist who has depicted lynchings is Adrian Piper, an artist who has cast (and embodied) race to be far more ambiguous than Hannah Black does. In her “Cornered” (1988), Piper reports:

“In fact, some researchers estimate that almost all purportedly white Americans have between 5% and 20% black ancestry. Now, this country’s entrenched conventions classify a person as black if they have any black ancestry. So most purportedly white Americans are, in fact, black. Think what this means for your own racial classification. If you’ve been identifying yourself as white, then the chances are really quite good that you’re in fact black.”

Adrian Piper Cornered, 1988, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Adrian Piper, “Cornered,” 1988, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

How does Piper’s racial ambiguity hold up to Hannah Black’s outlook, which is based in a stark taxonomy? Even if we reject Piper’s genetic argument, could we understand it hermeneutically as a lesson that apparent racial differences should not fool us out of solidarity? That Black, white, and non-black people have more in common than is visible?

Cultural appropriation has felled many artists, like Kelley Walker at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis last year, all the way back to Rob Pruitt and Jack Early at Leo Castelli in 1992.

Kelley Walker, "Black Star Press; Star, Star, Star Press," 2007. Photo: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Kelley Walker, “Black Star Press; Star, Star, Star Press,” 2007. Photo: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

And calls for censorship are familiar, though they typically come from the top down, from institutions, not from artists. The Catholic League fought David Wojnarowicz’s video at The Hirschhorn in 2010; Rudy Giuliani infamously threatened the Brooklyn Museum for exhibiting a Chris Ofili painting. “Sick stuff,” he called it. Still, hostility comes from the ground up, too. “Fuck White Art” graffiti defaced a gallery in Los Angeles. And that’s just in the United States. Look abroad for more hostility.

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Art thrives on freedom of expression, so we should never silence an artist – including those artists who use open letters as material. With the NEA in danger, a plurality of voices is more important than ever. Still, Hannah Black seems to ask, “Is this so-called freedom really worth hurting Black viewers?” Why should that pain be acceptable? And suppose consensus accepts that the painting must go. Would that really heal the hurt that it caused? Would that act stifle the valuable discourse resulting from the painting’s visibility? Although censorship is at the heart of this issue, there are other compelling issues to examine, sooner rather than later, many of which are unearthed in “Open Casket.”

Alice Neel at David Zwirner Gallery

Alice Neel at David Zwirner Gallery

Jerry Saltz describes it as “…thick, sluicing…”.
“Ms. Schutz doesn’t picture his wounds as much as the pain of looking at them,” writes Roberta Smith.
3  The style of Dana Schutz’s painting is also a factor, as detailed by Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye in The New Republic. “Schutz has smeared Till’s face and made it unrecognizable, again. The streaks of paint crossing the canvas read like an aggressive rejoinder to Mamie Till Mobley’s insistence that he be photographed.”