GET IT ON THE RECORD
Visceglia Gallery, Caldwell College, NJ,
Opening reception Thursday September 06, 5-7 pm 2012
GET IT ON THE RECORD brings together the work of twenty-one African-American artists whose subject is the collective history of Black America. Although they represent a post civil rights generation, their concern with this history reveals the stubborn persistence of race in creating and defining personal identity in contemporary America. At the same time, there is an urgency on their part to record this history, in response to revisionist narratives that seek to downplay or, often, deny the significance of this history and the consequent centrality of race in contemporary American politics and economics.
A group of New York and Newark based critically engaged artists – damali abrams, Keith O. Anderson, Aisha Bell, Elvira Clayton, Sonia Louise Davis, Oasa DuVerney, Collette Fournier, Jerry Gant, Jesse Gammage, Wayne Hodge, Yashua Klos, Shani Peters, Valerie Piraino, Felandus Thames, Hank Willis Thomas, Dread Scott, and Nyugen Smith respond to Amiri Baraka’s urgent call to…. “get it on the record”… in order to protect a rich history that remains at risk of being obscured by the dominant white culture. The long tail of shared memory guides these artists. The past that is vibrantly alive in family and community memory.
Although they are graduates of the best American art schools, these artists have chosen to focus on the uniqueness of Black cultural and political struggles. The mainstream art market has embraced them; they have been anointed the “post-Black” generation – gliding effortlessly between the worlds of critical theory and hip-hop.
Whether chronicling the testimonies of past generations or testifying for themselves they shine a light on that part of the American landscape that is essential to an understanding of a country that embraces America’s first Black president, and a Tea Party movement that refuses to acknowledge the changed times and history we share.
In collecting this history, the artists take different approaches: investigating family history; tracing the signs of Black history on the streets of Harlem; interviewing neighborhood residents; or using the tropes of media pop-culture. The artists record this history on paper, canvas and through performance, putting fine arts in a service of the documentary and archival practices.
A personal note: Growing up in Soviet era Russia, I learned to admire and support the struggle for Black Liberation in America. It was natural for me to gravitate to the work of contemporary African American artists when I began my curating career. But it has been an unexpected revelation to experience, through the work of these artists, the profound and complex history of this struggle. Whether they are “pre” or “post” they are working hard and fast to give solid form to a neglected but fundamental, element of America’s creation myth.
GET IT ON THE RECORD is a vigilant reminder of this critical cultural history – a history that must be protected, celebrated, shared, and passed on.
Curated by Yulia Tikhonova, curator in residence 2012-2013