ARTS.BLACK: An Editorial Note
In March, I began reading Art on My Mind: Visual Politics by bell hooks. As a Black woman interested in the realm of art and cultural criticism, I found myself nodding in affirmation as I read the comprehensive testimonies shared by hooks. There were several passages that resonated with me the most. I thought her words would be useful in expanding the context around ARTS.BLACK and its mission:
“…One obvious reason there are so few black folks writing about art is that there are so few rewards to be had for such writing. And the reality is that, as black [female] critics entering this domain, we risk having our ideas appropriated or go unacknowledged by those who enjoy more power, greater authority of voice, within the existing structure. This can lead us to silence. Audre Lorde spent a lifetime warning us of the danger in such a choice, reminding us that our silence will not save us. …The system of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is not maintained solely by white folks. It is also maintained by the rest of us who internalize and enforce the values of this regime. This means that black people must be held accountable when we do not make needed critical interventions that would create the ‘revolution in vision’”
Choosing this quote as the framework for our Temporary Arts Review collaboration is somewhat cathartic. It is not often one finds work by a critic that delves into the importance of racial inequity within art criticism, or even the art world at large and we wanted that realization and relief to be shared with others. Furthermore, hooks highlights issues in the contemporary arts arena that are still quite potent today.
Though we are in the age of ‘democratized media’, its facilitators and content are hardly reflective of the artists, and the individuals who consume it. The lack of Black writers in the critical arts realm influences an industry that is completely one dimensional.
Inequities and underrepresentation in the arts have been the inspiration and thus the mission behind ARTS.BLACK. Being a Black critic of art and culture is not an act that is committed simply out of pleasure; it is political and very deliberate. We desire to change the art criticism landscape through inclusive dialogue and nuanced publications. We also hope to encourage more people of color to use their voices in the critical domain because “silence will not save us.” Taylor Aldridge, Co-Editor of ARTS.BLACK
hooks also writes: representation is a crucial location of struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonization of the mind.
Everyone wants to talk race until it’s time to talk race.
It’s time to talk race.
hooks also writes: art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have wide – ranging transformative impact.
ARTS.BLACK emerges from a deep seeded desire to assert such subjectivity, to acknowledge that the voices of art writers of color must be included in critical public discourse. In some way, I want our platform to be a part of a community that acknowledges this function in order to move away from the silence hooks (and Lorde) rightly warn against. I know that our passion for a field that truly reflects the breadth of all cultural experiences is rooted in the #clapback as much as it is centered around the celebration of transformative action. In this way, for me, the critical intervention becomes the reward. Diversity cannot just be a buzzword.
We are a part of a larger eco-system – artists, institutions, curators, art historians, activists, and fellow writers. As such, hooks’ call to action, the urgent plea to render ourselves visible, can and should be applied to this entire ecology because if not we risk losing contributions to an archive in which we deserve to be included. Indeed, we risk losing the creation of an archive that can live outside of the limited scope of whiteness.
The art world has a race problem and I want to talk about it.
But as hooks also writes: art is on my mind. art has always been on my mind.
I am interested in the convergence of these two conversations and very thankful that the writings featured in this guest issue help push us away from the silence. – Jessica Lynne, Co-Editor of ARTS.BLACK
hooks, bell. “ Art on My Mind.” Art on My Mind: Visual Politics. New York: New Press, 1995.
About the Editors
Taylor Renee Aldridge is a cultural enthusiast, Masters Thesis Museum Studies Candidate at Harvard University, and former Goldman Sachs Fellow at The Smithsonian. She is currently spearheading an arts business course program initiative at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in her hometown of Detroit. Taylor’s ultimate goal and life purpose is to provide cultural awareness through the arts within nascent and blighted communities as a form of revitalization and therapy. She’s on Twitter at @TaylorRaldrig and Instagram at @Taylorraldridge
Jessica Lynne is a Brooklyn based writer and arts administrator. She received her BA in Africana Studies from NYU. She has been awarded residencies and fellowships from The Sarah Lawrence College Summer Writers Seminar, Callaloo, and The Center for Book Arts. Jessica’s research interests lie at the intersection of Africana studies, contemporary art, and the publishing industry. She’s on twitter and Instagram at @lynne_bias