“[The black presence in the contemporary art scene] almost feels as though an Occupy High Art movement is happening….How black people have been seen in history continues to influence how they are seen today. Yet the high visibility of blacks in the art world hasn’t done away with the critical defensiveness that made the controversy at this year’s Whitney Biennial over Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till such an embarrassing turf war among the second-rate. Till, age 14, was beaten to death in 1955 in Mississippi for supposedly having whistled at a white woman. The painting has no power unless, or until, you think of the horrific image of Till in his open casket on which it was based.”
From Darryl Pinckney, “The Trickster’s Art” (a piece on Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Kehinde Wiley, and the Regarding the Figure show at the Studio Museum in Harlem), New York Review of Books LXIV.13 (August 17, 2017): 50.
Pinckney is a novelist, longtime contributor to The New York Review, and partner of James Fenton (who was introduced to Pinckney by Susan Sontag in the Paris Bar in Berlin in 1990). Pinckney’s latest book—Black Deutschland: A Novel—is the story of a young, gay, post-drug-rehab Chicagoan in 1980s Berlin.
See Deesha Philyaw’s Rumpus interview with Pinckney.
Left to right: New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, Darryl Pinckney, publisher Rea Hederman, and, seated, Susan Sontag.
Photograph by Dominique Nabokov.