Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chakaia Booker, Coming to Indy

From the Arts Councils E-News Announcement:

Indy's Next Public Art Exhibition To Feature African-American Sculptor Chakaia Booker

New York City-based African-American sculptor Chakaia Booker will create at least nine larger-than-life installations for an outdoor exhibition that will open here in May 2008 and run through June 2009. Her lushly expressive work is made from found and reused materials including vulcanized rubber (recycled tires) woven into towering pieces of art.

Booker's exhibition will join internationally recognized American artist Tom Otterness and Britain's Julian Opie to become the third major public art exhibition in Indianapolis.

Led by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, with support from the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission, the two prior exhibitions attracted attention from national media and interest from countless residents and visitors.
To date, the two large scale public art exhibitions brought about by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, have been a great success. From what I have heard from the public, both arts interested and those that typically are not, is that the works were engaging to stumble upon while walking around downtown. I enjoyed the Opie much more than the Otterness personally and from what I have seen of Chakaia's work, I expect it to be my favorite so far. Booker's work may be a little harder for the general public to grasp than the first two artists but we should challenge the public more. Art can be more than an illustration or a "one liner".

One problem I had with the E-News statement is that they made a point to categorize Chakaia Booker as an "African-American Sculptor" in their headline. Neither Otterness or Opie's race were ever mentioned in any of the press releases I have read. I feel it comes off merely as a political or PC decision and some how lessens Chakaia's artistic achievement. I feel somehow surprised not to see the word "woman" thrown in there as well. Wouldn't be great if artists were good enough to just be an "artist". No stipulations. No qualifiers. Please do not get me wrong, I am not accusing the ACI of having any PC motives with their statement, it may merely have been and oversight or perhaps I have just read it out of context.

All that said, I am looking forward to seeing all of Chakaia Booker's work here in 2008. I hope the public will enjoy it.

13 Responses to “Chakaia Booker, Coming to Indy”

Anonymous said...
October 4, 2007 at 2:31 PM

Does anyone else think it seems a little dated to describe her as a New York based African American artist? White artists are never described by their race.

Carla said...
October 4, 2007 at 7:43 PM

"African-Amercian sculptor" sounds like she only sculpts African-Americans.

Anonymous said...
October 5, 2007 at 1:06 AM

thats funny

Anonymous said...
October 5, 2007 at 1:09 AM

Not being very familiar with her art, I'd say it would be appropriate to label her as an African-American artist if her works had African-American culture as a major influence, or perhaps if she describes herself as an African-American artist. It does seem unlikely the wording was intended to be read into deeply, but it does come off as sloppy.

Anonymous said...
October 5, 2007 at 2:25 AM

Anonymous REX says

In ACI or CDC code speak that means non Straight White Male; preferably not middle class or culturally conservative.

When will the ACI or the CDC publish the guidelines for diversity in the arts so that all can have a level playing field? Will the one drop rule still apply?

They continue to reward minorities just for being born minorities no matter the mission or the out come. They punish others for their lack of minority audiences and board members.

Just a note, the last time I saw a play at the Madame Walker Theater I did not remember it having a noticeable non black Christian audience. I did not hear this as a criticism in their annual funding review. Nor was it noted in printed review.

I did hear other groups, mine include, have penalties applied for not having enough blacks in our audience, on our boards and amongst our employees. Does any one see hypocrisy here besides me? How many whites work at the Walker? At Expo?

Note to all struggling non-profits applying for annual funding, hurry, get at Black, or a Latino on your board before the next filing

Preferably a openly GAY one if you can swing it!

Carla said...
October 5, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Mandated diversity is awkward for everyone. It's both necessary and contrary to it's own goal.

That this labeling of Chakaia Booker now sounds old-fashioned to our ears show some progress towards real diversity, where the tropes of the mandated version seem silly.

Anonymous said...
October 5, 2007 at 2:59 PM

I don't think this is progress at all. You don't have to label Kara Walker as an African American artist in a press release in order to inform or clarify her work. Sure, if you found out she was white people would be more confused about her work- but so what? Let them find out one way or the other then think about it. Don't label people by race unless you plan to label EVERYONE you show by race. White artists definitely make art about the white experience. Like, say Tina Barney- it's a totally white world she photographs. And yet I'll bet $100 she has never been labelled "caucasian photographer Tina Barney." Steve McQueen is rarely labelled as black- I didn't even know he was until I saw him speak. Did finding out his race change my read of his work? No.

Greg Spencer said...
October 5, 2007 at 3:16 PM

Carla how is it necessary to anyone?

Don't you think that it is insulting to non white artists to qualify them by race or female artist by sex?

I agree with "REX". It is so hypocritical how the ACI gives special attention to groups and artists that are "diverse". I am sure that her being an African American played a part in her selection. In other words she got public money in part because she is not white.

I want them to show an artist because he or she is white or give special consideration in funding for that and see what happens!

One drop rule, funny.

Carla said...
October 5, 2007 at 4:15 PM

Anon at 2:59. I think we agree that it's insulting to point out race only when an artist is non-white.

That we have to consiously address the issue of race sucks.

But we sort of have this well established history of white dudes deciding everything, and we have to consider ways to open up the playing field, preferrably without villainizing or disavowing anyone.

Anonymous said...
October 6, 2007 at 2:18 PM

It has always sadden me that the media and government needs labels.

I'm also worried That these sculptures being outside will breed nile virus because of the many hidden water sources within.

Don't get me wrong I like them.

Lon said...
October 11, 2007 at 9:06 AM

Scott, I am extremely glad to hear someone making this point concerning qualification. It has often occurred to me, also, that to be other than white, male, North American or Western European and heterosexual is a standing invitation to be qualified in description by those attributes which deviate from this preferred list. Good for you. Would love to hear people make the point more often.

diong said...
October 11, 2007 at 1:53 PM

What's wrong with "African-American Sculptor" label in the article?

I do not see anybody question in this post when Julian Opie was "labeled" as "the British artist’s largest public project to date anywhere in the world".

You can see several "African" references in the Art in Review New York Times article back in 2001.

I do not think this is a race issue at all... but the fact that Chakaia's works are just rich of "African" influences.

Scott said...
October 12, 2007 at 5:27 AM

A previous anonymous made this point:

"or perhaps if she describes herself as an African-American artist"

I must confess that I never considered this position. I assume it is possible for an artist to want to be catagorized by their race, sex, or sexual orientation. It has just been my experience through conversations with artist associates that they hate being subcategorized by race, sex, and orientation. Many of them have even turned down exhibition opportunities that were restricted on those terms.

I would like to thank you for the link to the New York Times article, perhaps that may hone peoples thoughts of the topic, perhaps not. As for the reference to the Julian Opie "British" reference, well, that has nothing to do with his race at all, but his nationality. Defining that he is British, in this scenario, I believe is of some importance. Indianapolis has never had a public art installation of this scale by an artist, not from this country. It is intended to place Indy and its art scene in a more "international" light. But you are right in most contexts his nationallity is useless to know.

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