In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the National Gallery of Art in Washington postponed a major retrospective of the iconic 20th-century painter Philip Guston (b. 1913) for four years. The controversy was on one of Guston’s recurring motifs, a character wearing a white bandana, which suggests a depiction of the white supremacist organization KKK. The museum argued that although it ironically delivers Guston’s critical stance on racism, the public can misunderstand it amidst the turmoil.
In response to the museum’s decision, many artists signed a petition calling for the exhibition to go ahead as planned, criticizing the museum for undervaluing the audience’s ability to critical understanding and shirking its responsibility. But the museum stood by its decision to postpone.
In early March 2023, the “Phillip Guston Now” exhibition arrived at the National Gallery of Art in Washington after its tour in Boston and Houston and is scheduled to head to the Tate Modern in the United Kingdom for the final stop of the tour. In addition, in December 2022, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States received a donation of 220 of his works from Guston’s daughter and her endowment for Guston research. Despite the concerns of 2020, Guston’s art seems to have been recognized as resisting, not assenting to, racism in the U.S.
National Gallery of Art
Philip Guston Now
March 2, 2023 – August 27, 2023
MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, presents “Signals: How Video Transformed the World” from March 5 through July 8. The exhibition focuses on the global impact of the video on the social structure of communication.
Video now permeates the lives of individuals and the entire functioning of society. Revolutions and wars are broadcast on television, and people engage in political activity through social media. Artists have been experimenting with the new possibilities and risks of video since its beginning. Until now, they have imagined new social models through video, worried about state control and the consumerism that video intrudes on everyday life.
The exhibition features works of many generations from MoMA’s collection, providing viewers with the experience of the diverse setting, format, and international popularity of video art. Among the artists represented in the exhibition are John Akomfrah, Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Tony Cokes, Amar Kanwar, New Red Order, Nam June Paik, Sondra Perry, Martine Syms, Stan VanDerBeek, and Ming Wong.
The Museum of Modern Art
Signals: How Video Transformed the World
March 5, 2023 – July 8, 2023
Artist Rummana Hussain (1952-1999) lived as a Muslim in Hindu-dominated India. Constantly facing social conflicts related to her position in society, she grappled with her female and religious identity throughout her life. Hussain began her career as a painter, but gradually used her body as a site for discourse and established herself as one of India’s leading contemporary feminist artists through her performance works.
Currently, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA) in New York is presenting Hussain’s solo exhibition “The Tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal.” Begum Hazrat Mahal was the last queen of the Oudh kingdom in northern India before the British colonial annexation in the 19th century. She led an armed rebellion after the deposition and exile of her king but was defeated.
Hussein designed the exhibition space to resemble Queen Mahal’s tomb, with photographs of her body, votive inscriptions, and papaya-like objects that resemble religious offerings. IAIA is an independent, non-profit organization that opened in New York City in 2017 to promote a better understanding of Arab and Islamic cultures and cultural exchange in New York. Hussein’s solo exhibition is its inaugural exhibition after moving to its current location in the West Village in 2022.
Institute of Arab & Islamic Art
Rummana Hussain: The Tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal
November 3, 2022 – April 30, 2023
People often measure an artist’s success by whether they make money solely from their work or from day jobs. However, this comes from the prejudice that artists stay isolated with extraordinary inspiration.
An exhibition against this prejudice is on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, the largest university art museum in the United States. “Day Jobs” showcases American artists from the post-World War II era who created art while working in various jobs such as dishwashing, furniture making, graphic design, and clerical work in large corporations. It criticizes defining creativity by occupational categories such as ‘lawyer’ or ‘artist,’ and invites a more open-minded view of artists’ economic activities, conveying that repeated everyday work and creative inspiration are not disparate.
Many prominent artists from history have juggled creative and professional endeavors, and their jobs have been more mundane than creative. Frank Stella, for example, went from painting the exterior walls of houses to applying the very paint and brushstrokes to canvas, creating some of the most iconic works of modernist art.
Blanton Museum of Art
February 19, 2023 – July 23, 2023