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Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

New Museum / New York / Art

In 2018, the New Museum asked the acclaimed curator Okwui Enwezor, known for championing artists of color, to organize an exhibition. “With the media’s normalization of white nationalism,” he wrote of the project, “there is a new urgency to assess the role that artists, through works of art, have played to illuminate the searing contours of the American body politic.” Enwezor passed away before his final work could come to fruition. To realize his plans, several curators stepped forward, filling three floors of the museum and uniting 37 artists—among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, and Terry Adkins—from many different disciplines, generations, and countries. As the exhibition title suggests, the individual works evoke grief within Black communities or resistance to white nationalism, while the show as a whole is an expression of collective mourning, both for traumas inherited through slavery’s legacy and for lives lost or impacted by ongoing injustice. The exhibition is also an elegy for Enwezor—a commemoration of his life and genius, a celebration of his profound impact on the art world. —C.J.F.

New Museum 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002, USA
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