Tuesday, November 9, 2010

American Art(world) Controversy?

Just the other day I was speaking with a few folks about Jasper Johns (and the fact that GC's own Jacobs Gallery has one of his works on view).  Someone in the group made a comment about Johns's role in American art history, and the topic of his being intimately associated with Robert Rauschenberg came up. I knew of this "hidden" history from courses I had taken in graduate school as well as readings I had been assigned about these two artists. 

Robert Rauschenberg, 7 Characters Truth, 1982
Then, while checking out the College Art Association's online newsletter for blog ideas, I came across several interesting articles.  One concerns graffiti art (Link), and another a truly underground exhibition (Link); a third concerns graduate teaching assistants at one major university being allowed--or not--to unionize (Link), but the article that really caught my attention concerns a new installation at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.  The show purports to decode several well-known American artists' works in order to bring homosexuality in art history to light (Link).  I thought to myself, "What?  No one's ever done that before?"  Apparently, the subject has been too controversial for most museums and curators in the U.S. to undertake.

On a familiar note, in the national news over the weekend, I heard the story of a mother who had blogged about backlash following her 5-year old's fulfilled request to dress up as the Scooby Doo character Daphne for Halloween (Link).  A picture of the child in costume was included in the broadcast, along with various commentaries and interpretations about this rather minor occurrence in American life.  (I wonder if dressing up as Velma would have caused as much of a stir.?.)   
And yet, while trying to decide what to write for today, I debated with myself  for a few moments about whether it would be wise to blog about the subject of homosexuality and art history here.  Is it too controversial?  GC::VA readers, care to comment?

1 comment:

Mexifem said...

The National Portrait Gallery show looks like an amazing exhibit. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see it while I was in DC, but I think it's an important theme to explore. Desire and sexuality have always been a part of artmaking and contemporary responses to sexuality by artists such as David Wojnarowicz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, and Catherine Opie have helped to express and shape the way we think about sexuality and desire today. Kudos to David Ward and Jonathan Katz for putting the show together.

On a side note, I read a few articles just yesterday about a small cache of surviving sculptures that were believed to have been destroyed by the Nazis. The works are going on display in Berlin, but were originally taken and hidden by the Nazis for displaying, among other things, what they believed to be "deviant sexualities"- a powerful reminder of the dangers of extreme intolerance and fear of the power of art itself.