#55 Who Gets to Be American?
How Has the American Narrative Portrayed by Cultural Institutions Fallen Short?Published 28 March 2019
Our world and the ways in which we perceive and understand it are both shaped and reflected by art. This is especially true when it comes to nations and the stories they tell of themselves. Focusing on American identity, this podcast was recorded during a live panel discussion between Lauren Haynes (curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas), Paul Anthony Smith (artist), Antwaun Sargent (critic) and host Charlotte Burns at The Armory Show in New York earlier this month.
From the question of whether there are “American” artists today to what it means to consider oneself American; from representation within museums to how morality is dealt with in US culture, our guests ask how institutions, and the art world at large, are working to foster a more expansive narrative.
Tune in today to hear more.
Click here for the full transcript.
Charlotte Burns: Hello and welcome to In Other Words, where we cover everything you ever wanted to know about the art world but didn’t know who to ask. I’m your host, Charlotte Burns, and today’s episode was recorded during a live panel discussion at The Armory Show here in New York in March. The subject was “Who gets to be American?”
Lauren Haynes: It’s not about taking those paintings down. But it is about saying, “Okay, well, what was really going on when this was made and what do we know now that we can also add to that conversation?
Paul Anthony Smith: I’m making work about me and my culture, and what I know and what I know to be true about where I’m coming from.
Antwaun Sargent: Our history is our history, and we have to be more robust about how we’re thinking about that history.
Before we dive into today’s episode, here is your regular reminder to check out our In Other Words newsletter. Our 101st issue, out now, is an investigation into the ways museum directors around the world measure their success. Be sure to check it out at artagencypartners.com. And now, on to today’s show.
curator, contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Lauren Haynes is a curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Prior to joining Crystal Bridges in October 2016, Haynes spent nearly a decade at The Studio Museum in Harlem. As a specialist in African American contemporary art, Haynes organized or co-organized dozens of exhibitions at the Studio Museum including Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art; Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange; and Alma Thomas. At the Studio Museum, Haynes oversaw the care and collection of the permanent collection as well as acquisitions and exhibitions. As part of her curatorial practice, Haynes has authored and co-authored several catalogues such as Alma Thomas, The Bearden Project, Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art, and Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange. She is a member of the Association of Art Museum Curators and serves on the Nomination and Governance Committee. Haynes is a recipient of a 2016 Gold Rush Award from Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
Paul Anthony Smith
Paul Anthony Smith (b. Jamaica, 1988) creates paintings and unique picotages on pigment prints that explore the artist’s autobiography, as well as issues of identity within the African diaspora. Referencing both W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness and Franz Fanon’s theory of diasporic cultural confusions caused by colonialism, Smith alludes to African rituals, tribal masks, and scarification to obscure and alter his subjects’ faces and skin. Through Smith’s process of picotage, rendered with the use of a ceramic tool to pick away at surfaces of photographic prints, he achieves rich textures that appear almost iridescent. With this method, Smith questions the potential of a photograph to retain and tell the truth of one’s past.
Smith’s work has been acquired by numerous public collections, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Blanton Museum at the University of Texas, Austin, and has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions, including a solo show at the Atlanta Contemporary, a two person show at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and group shows at the New Museum, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; the Seattle Art Museum; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; among others.
critic and writer
Antwaun Sargent is writer and critic living and working in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, W, Vice and various other publications. He has recently contributed essays and interviews to museum and gallery publications for artists Ed Clark, Mickalene Thomas, Arthur Jafa and Yinka Shonibare. Sargent has lectured and been in conversation with artists at Studio Museum in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Art Gallery of Toronto and various other institutions. His first book “The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion” is out this fall from Aperture.
Where to look
In Pictures: Recent Works by Paul Anthony Smith
The live record
Photos from the live event at The Armory Show, "Who Gets to Be American?"
For more on Paul Anthony Smith:
- “Face Value: Paul Anthony Smith on His Many Masks“, by Robin Scher for ARTNews
- “Jack Shainman Gallery to Mount First Paul Anthony Smith Show in April“, by Annie Armstrong for ARTNews
For more on Lauren Haynes and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art:
- “Sally Tallant, Lauren Haynes, and Dan Byers to Curate Sections of 2019 Armory Show“, by Claire Selvin for artnet News
- Exhibitions on view at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
For more on Antwaun Sargent:
- “Antwaun Sargent On The Power Of Contemporary Black Art Now“, by Addie Wagenknecht for Forbes
- Soul of a Nation: “We Are More Than This“, by Antwaun Sargent for Tate