Currently Reading “Mixed Blessings: New Art In A Multicultural America”
As you know I’m in the MFA in Advanced Photographic Practice program at ICP-Bard, so since last September I’ve started (re)using the analytical and critical part of my brain more than I have in 11+ years!
Needless to say I’ve had to dust the cobwebs off and discard useless information to make room in my brain’s memory bank for all the artists names, artworks, art institutions, art shows that we talk about… but I finally feel like I’m getting into a groove.
Now let me tell you about my lists. My free time is ruled by lists of things to see and read – one such list is books about art. (Perhaps I’ll publish these lists as future blog posts?) A book I discovered lately is Lucy Lippard’s “Mixed Blessings: New Art In A Multicultural America” published in 1990.
In the book’s introduction, Lippard makes it clear that this is “not a book ‘about’ artists of color in the United States.” I took this to mean that she’s not interested in just doing a survey for the sake of affirmative action in the art world. In stating her mission she says the book “deals with the ways cross-cultural activity is reflected in the visual arts,” and very graciously admits that it is a “record of my own still-incomplete learning process.”
Although “Mixed Blessings” was published 22 years ago, what an incredible resource it is! Each chapter highlights art that speaks to the complexities of being Black/Brown/Red/Yellow in America: Self-representation, identity, history, family, religion, storytelling, roots, homelands, displacement, miscegenation, colonization, subversion and dreams.
Photographers (or artists who use photography in their practice) mentioned are Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Alfredo Jaar, Tseng Kwong Chi and Albert Chong. Yet what delights me about this book is how Lippard elevates the work that would otherwise be trivialized by the art cognoscenti as “folk art”. Quotes from other artists, academics and literary figures featured along the margins of the book reinforce the importance of these works and what they’re trying to express.
This book is truly an art lesson you probably won’t learn in any university. Now my desire is to contact Lucy Lippard and convince her to publish an updated edition of “Mixed Blessings” with artists from 1990 to today!
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