In 2017, the Whitney Biennial included a painting by a white artist, Dana Schutz, of the lynched body of a young black child, Emmett Till. In 1979, anger brewed over a show at New York’s Artists Space entitled The Nigger Drawings. In 1969, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Harlem on My Mind did not include a single work by a black artist. In all three cases, black artists and writers and their allies organized vigorous responses using the only forum available to them: public protest.
Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts reflects on these three incidents in the long and troubled history of art and race in America. It lays bare how the art world―no less than the country at large―has persistently struggled with the politics of race, and the ways this struggle has influenced how museums, curators and artists wrestle with notions of free speech and the specter of censorship. Whitewalling takes a critical and intimate look at these three “acts” in the history of the American art scene and asks: when we speak of artistic freedom and the freedom of speech, who, exactly, is free to speak?
JENNIFER SZALAI IN THE NEW YORK TIMES: “WHITEWALLING IS A LASER BEAM OF A BOOK, UNWAVERING AND ON TARGET.”
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY: “AN IMPRESSIVELY NUANCED EXPLORATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ART AND RACE IN AMERICA….THIS BOOK COULD BECOME AN ESSENTIAL PRIMER IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT EXCLUSION, FREE SPEECH, AND THE POWER OF INSTITUTIONS IN THE ART WORLD AND OUTSIDE IT.”
TIANA REID IN GARAGE: “IF RESISTANCE CAN BE WELCOMED AT ALL, [D’SOUZA] IS CLEARLY STRIVING TO DO SO.”
HARRY BURKE IN ARTREVIEW ASIA: “WHITEWALLING SETS A GENERATIVE PRECEDENT.”
CASEY BEALS IN MOMUS: “IF THERE IS CAUSE FOR HOPE, IT INHERES IN VOICES… D’SOUZA’S, THAT PIERCE THE SMOOTH FUNCTIONING OF A LIBERAL RHETORIC.
Aruna D’Souza writes about modern and contemporary art; intersectional feminism and other forms of politics; and how museums shape our views of each other and the world. Her work appears regularly in 4Columns.org, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board and has been published as well in The Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Art News, Garage, Bookforum, Momus, Art in America, and Art Practical, among other places. Her book, Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts was published by Badlands Unlimited in May 2018. She currently editing two forthcoming volumes, Making It Modern: A Linda Nochlin Reader, which will be published by Thames & Hudson, and A Presence Which Signals Absence: Lorraine O’Grady Collected Writings 1977-2018.
This book is a must-have for anyone wanting to delve into the question of black art, protest, and the mainstream art arena!