There is a lot of pressure towards Yes. Think positive, close the deal, say yes to the dress, don¹t make a fuss. Yes is obliging. It acquiesces, accommodates, conciliates. No is difficult, thorny, combative. It is also completely necessary. True choice does not exist without the ability to decline. Yes does not exist in a vacuum, it needs at least the authentic potential of No to be valid.
“The Art of No!” celebrates the long history and current renaissance of No in art. In a sense, the entirety of avant-garde art is about negativity, contradicting what came before. The idea of No in art really coalesced with the Dadaists during WWI, when nihilism seemed the only sane choice in a world turned upside down by the trauma of war. Throughout the 20th century, No has recurred again and again in art, in feminist, anti-war, social justice, and worker’s rights contexts.
This exhibition shows how powerful and, in the end, positive No can be through collecting art of diverse media, perspectives, and means that explores No in a variety of ways. “The Art of No” highlights the benefits of negativity. The exhibition does not advocate for any one political or social position or issue, but instead examines artists who have chosen for various reasons to exercise their right of refusal.