Thursday, August 05, 2021

APA Sarah Elizabeth Lewis Wins the 2022 Danto/ASA Prize

NEWARK, Del. — Aug. 4, 2021 — The American Philosophical Association (APA) and the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) are pleased to announce that Professor Sarah Elizabeth Lewis (Harvard University) has been selected as the winner of the 2022 Arthur Danto/American Society for Aesthetics Prize for her paper, “Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law.” It was published in Art Journal 79:4 (2020) 92–113. 

The competition this year included 15 papers, and the selection committee also awarded Honorable Mention to Michel-Antoine Xhignesse for “What Makes a Kind an Art-Kind?” Xhignesse teaches at Capilano University in Canada.

The Danto/ASA Prize, in the amount of $1,000, is awarded to a member of the APA and the ASA for the best paper in the field of aesthetics, broadly understood. In addition, a symposium in Professor Lewis’s honor will be held at the 2022 APA Eastern Division meeting in Baltimore, MD. This prize is in honor of the late Arthur Danto, a past president of the APA Eastern Division.

Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College), the chair of the selection committee, said, “Sarah Lewis’s paper ‘Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the era of Stand Your Ground Law’ is a beautifully written, original, and penetrating paper that reflects on the concept of ‘grounding’ as it considers a range of works of art that address racialized life in the US. It is important work that insightfully bridges philosophy and art criticism, in a way that fits in perfectly with the legacy of Arthur Danto’s own work.”

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, "Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law"

Nothing is without ground.
—Martin Heidegger

A grave. I sweat into the earth as I repair it.

—Jericho Brown

In 2016, Mark Bradford set to work on the ground of 150 Portrait Tone (2017). A color field of found papers and acrylic paint with block text centralizes a searing scene from months earlier, when thirty-two–year-old Philando Castile was killed in his car by police officer Jeronimo Yanez at a traffic stop. Yanez had pulled over Castile for a broken taillight in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. He asked for Castile's license and registration. Castile, who had no criminal record and worked as a school supervisor at a Montessori school, complied, volunteering that he also had a legally owned firearm in the car in the compartment containing the documents. While leaning over to extract these, Castile affirmed that he was not reaching for a gun, but only submitting to the officer's request. His words offered no protection. Yanez shot Castile seven times as he sat next to his fiancée, Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds, with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. Yanez would be acquitted of all charges.

But Reynolds had been video-recording the fatal events with her phone and began livestreaming. The video went viral. Bradford was gripped as he saw the footage of Reynolds holding four conversations nearly at once as Castile lay dying just inches away. She addressed the police officer, saying, "Please, officer, don't tell me that you just did this to him"; then said to Castile, "Stay with me"; prayed to God, "Please, Jesus, don't tell me that he's gone"; and to unknown viewers of her livestream exclaimed, "Please don't tell me he just went like that."[ 1] Bradford affixed these four utterances on the canvas as a streaming text. The regularized, stencil-shaped words visually rhymed with Reynolds's voice, which seemed unnaturally composed in the face of catastrophe—possibly an indication of shock, yet perhaps a necessary decision to present herself as unthreatening to the police officer in the wake of the fatal shooting. Reynolds's words, rendered in hues of reds, pinks, and textured blacks, cover and run off the edges of Bradford's canvas, with colors seeping through and across the letters' limits filling all intervening space. These textual pleas constitute the entire ground of the canvas, prostrating Reynolds, laying out the brutality of the event, and unfurling her words like a body at the viewers' feet.

Christies "The ‘social abstraction’ of Mark Bradford"

An introduction to the highly sought-after Los Angeles artist, who represented his country at the 2017 Venice Biennale and is spoken of as the latest in a line of great American Abstract Expressionists

Who is Mark Bradford?

Mark Bradford is an American abstract artist who’s fast becoming one of the art world’s hottest properties. He was chosen to represent the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where his pavilion prompted the editor-in-chief of Artnet to claim, ‘Bradford is our [generation’s] Jackson Pollock’....

Does his work also have a political dimension?

Yes, although not explicitly. Bradford likes to call his art ‘social abstraction’. In many cases, the paper he uses started out on advertising hoardings in the working-class neighbourhoods of South Central Los Angeles, reflecting much of what constitutes business there: from paternity tests and high-interest loans to fast-track immigration papers.

Bradford is represented by Mnuchin Gallery

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California on November 20, 1961 to a family of hairdressers. Bradford’s early work used the materials found around salons, including the paper rectangles used for permanents, bobby pins, and hair dye, beginning an interest in the use of found materials. He is best known for his multimedia abstract paintings whose laborious surfaces hint at the artist’s excavation of emotional and political terrain. Bradford also creates public art, installations, and video, often exploring the relationship between high art and popular culture and between materiality, surface, and image. 

and Hauser and Wirth

Characterized by its layered formal, material, and conceptual complexity, Bradford’s work explores social and political structures that objectify marginalized communities and the bodies of vulnerable populations. Just as essential to Bradford’s work is a social engagement practice through which he reframes objectifying societal structures by bringing contemporary art and ideas into communities with limited access to museums and cultural institutions.

Vogue, "Mark Bradford’s Got A Brand New Bag" 

“I’m excited and I’m going to stay excited,” says the Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford, who is representing the U.S. at this year’s Venice Biennale, while talking at the bar in Lafayette, a downtown New York restaurant. He’s going to stay excited for six years, to be precise. A painting and sculpture installation of his intricate and mesmerizing work, Tomorrow is Another Day, will be on display through November in the Biennale’s American pavilion, and he has also dug into the city with a second, more long-term project, Process Collettivo, that is purely his own.

Bradford is in New York this week to talk about both this initiative and his pavilion show, presented by the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. At a lunch full of journalists and admirers, he brings his considerable charisma to describing what drives him as a blue-chip artist who is genuinely in the world.

Etc. etc. etc.

Black Lives Matter sentiment is essentially a militant expression of racial liberalism....Black Lives Matter is a cry for full recognition within the established terms of liberal democratic capitalism.

Hauser and Wirth, Philip Guston and Hannah Black

Hannah Black, Antwaun Sargent, Parker Bright, and Dana Schutz  

Video art and Gallery Film 

Philosopher Christopher Lebron

Bradford's work is hyped, but his stylish, tasteful, abstractions exist in the shadow of films by Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins, and even of black Hollywood crap. If Bradford's work is more interesting than Schutz' it's because in one way or another his work looks forward, not as progress but as honesty, even against intention: claims for "art", half full or half empty. Bradford is a good designer; his works for what they are, are "contemporary";  Schutz' paintings are a warmed-over and flabby rehash of what in other contexts would be the recent past. And while it's a truism that minorities, women, and the marginal are allowed to play off their own situation, Schutz didn't play off her own. But claims for mixing abstraction and "content", like  Tomashi Jackson's claims for "research", are hollow, and claims for Bradford being the new Pollock, and Lewis' claims for "groundwork", are puffery at the same level of claims for Schutz.

Lorna Simpson (Hauser and Wirth again) and Kara Walker (Christies again) make work in the shadow of film, but their work is figurative, narrative and theatrical, and "subject matter" in poetry is not "content". But all these distinctions are the distinctions of criticism, subject to debate.  What's not subject to debate is that everyone above is thoroughly, and comfortably, bourgeois, and the artists in the larger scheme, conservative. Simpson's and Walker's work is more interesting because the elitism is palpable if not explicit, and the conservatism is knowing.       

All of this is the story of the growing black bourgeoisie, a new non-white elite, and the fading of the avant-garde and vanguardism of every sort, of philosophy, and "fine art".  McQueen started in the art world, but moved beyond it. He didn't "sell out"; he understood that the larger world is also now the more complex one. Simpson and Walker will never leave. 

See also Baldwin et al., and again and again, the history of intellectuals who avoided academia, or came and went. It's a long list.

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