Tag Archives: Fran Lebowitz

THE POWER OF THE ARTIST

AIDS completely changed American culture. People always say “pop culture.” As if we have some high culture to distinguish it from. The effect of AIDS was like a war in a minute country. Like, in World War I, a whole generation of Englishmen died all at once. And with AIDS, a whole generation of gay men died practically all at once, within a couple of years. And especially the ones that I knew.

The first people who died of AIDS were artists. They were also the most interesting people. I know I’ve said this before, but the audience for the arts—whether it was for writing or films or ballet—also died and no longer exists in a real way. So all the judgment left at the same time that all this creativity left. And it allowed people who would be fifth-rate artists to come to the front of the line. It decimated not just artists but knowledge. Knowledge of a culture. There’s a huge gap in what people know, and there’s no context for it anymore. — Fran Lebowitz*

Daniel Mendelsohn will moderate the panel THE POWER OF THE ARTIST at the Kitchen.

Presented by David Zwirner and the New York Review of Books, panelists include Jeremy O. Harris, Fran Lebowitz, Elizabeth Alexander, and Lisa Yuskavage.

THE POWER OF THE ARTIST—ELIZABETH ALEXANDER, JEREMY O. HARRIS, FRAN LEBOWITZ, and LISA YUSKAVAGE

Monday, February 3, at 6:30 pm

The Kitchen

512 West 19th Street, New York City.

*“The Voice: Fran Lebowitz,” interview by Francesco Clemente, Interview, March 2016.

From top: Jeremy O. Harris; Fran Lebowitz with Andy Warhol; Elizabeth Alexander. , photograph by Djeneba Aduayom. Photographs courtesy and © the subjects and the photographers. Above and below: Lisa Yuskavage, Bonfire, 2013–2015, oil on linen, diptych; Lisa Yuskavage, Naked Neighbors, 2019, oil on linen. Images courtesy and © the authors, the artist, the photographers, and David Zwirner.

TONI MORRISON — THE PIECES I AM

Navigating a white male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I knew more than them. — Toni Morrison

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM—the new documentary by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, now in theaters—is a joyous, exhilarating look at the life and work of a great American author, teacher, and editor who has always been happy to be labeled a “black writer,” a “woman writer.”

“I didn’t want to speak for black people. I wanted to speak to, and among…”

And it is shocking, in Greenfield-Sanders documentary, to come across such benighted critical voices as, say, Sara Blackburn’s in 1973, in America’s supposedly liberal newspaper of record:

“Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain only a marvelous recorder of the black side of provincial American life.”*

Removing the white male gaze as the dominant voice is a key element of Morrison’s practice, and she doesn’t hesitate calling out black writers who seemed to write to white audiences. Citing Ralph Ellison, she asks, “The Invisible Man? Invisible to whom?”

As a senior editor at Random House throughout the 1970s, Morrison discovered and championed books by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, and Bettie Wysor (author of The Lesbian Myth). She also persuaded Angela Davis—then in her late twenties—to write her autobiography.

“Eventually I learned that the book she wanted to publish was the book I wanted to write… She helped me access my imagination in ways I continue to be grateful for today.” — Angela Davis

Song of Solomon (1977) was Morrison’s first best seller, and five years later she left her editor’s post to devote her time to writing and teaching. She’s professor emeritus at Princeton University, and often told her students, “I know you’ve been told, ‘write what you know.’ I don’t want you to do that. You don’t know anything.”

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM features interviews with Morrison’s friends and colleagues—Walter Mosley, Farah Griffin, Fran Lebowitz, Paula Giddings, Hilton Als, Sonia Sanchez, editor Robert Gottlieb, and Davis—as well as a rich selection of contemporary artwork by, among others, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, David Hammons, and Rashid Johnson.

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM

Tuesday, October 22, at 7:30 pm.

The Landmark

10850 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 18, at 7:30 pm.

Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Music Hall

9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

Downtown Independent

251 South Main Street, Los Angeles.

Arclight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*Sara Blackburn, review of Sula, by Toni Morrison, New York Times, December 30, 1973.

From top: Toni Morrison, photograph from Toni Morrrison—The Pieces I Am; Morrison, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Morrison with her sons Ford Morrison (left) and Slade Morrison in 1978, photograph by Jack Mitchell, Getty Images; poster courtesy Magnolia Pictures; Morrison and Greenfield-Sanders, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Images courtesy and © the author, the photographers, and Magnolia Pictures.