I’ve been interested in response to Patriots Day, which I’ve not yet seen. Separate from the New York Times review by Glenn Kenny, a feature penned by the Times’ New England Bureau Chief Katharine Q. Seeyle offers the sense that Bostonians have their criticisms of the movie. Among them is the composite character played by Mark Wahlberg. To me, this popular response registers as a critique of the Great Man theory, a notion that’s been under scrutiny in Europe and North America since the nineteenth century.
Wahlberg’s image is being used to promote Patriots Day and this conceptual image is as well. The latter deserves more study than I can give it here. But, as we start a new academic semester this week and next, maybe this ad would be a good one to give to students of visual cultural studies.
In Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America, I wrote that “race was discursively central to modernity” and that “modernism depended on the the conceptualization of race in ethnocultural, social, and national terms.” Moreover, I argued that “the idea of the essential subject, as a construct, allowed for the preservation of racist and limiting terms used by admirers and detractors.”
The book’s focus were the conditions of early twentieth-century American modernism. Yet, it’s well-established that some of the ethno-racial preoccupations of US modernism had parallels in Europe. Christian Weikop’s and Esther Schreuder’s research, published in The Image of the Black in Western Art: The Twentieth Century—The Impact Images of Africa, are recent additions to the scholarship as it concerned the modernists of Western and Northern Europe and the modern images of those regions.
But what of Russia and Eastern Europe during the same period? The time is now.
“Russia Discovers Two Secrets Under Avant-Garde Masterpiece”
Art Historians Find Racist Joke Hidden Under Malevich’s BLACK SQUARE
This is a new initiative, led by contemporary artist Sonia Boyce, will document the careers of British modernists and post-modernists who are/were black. (“Black” here is in the political category that was vital in the 1970s and 1980s, meaning British ethno-racial minorities of African, Asian, and Caribbean heritages.)
Boyce puts the paradox up front. The project’s categorization draws boundaries around the artists as black people, a designation which some of them believe will limit or subtend assessment of their practices. However, without naming these important artists as black people, the pathways of modernism and its narratives, will appear to be entirely and homogeneously white. These accounts are simply incomplete. What’s worse they fail to tell on themselves. That is, they don’t draw attention to their own exclusionarism and elitism.
For more on the British project, see:
“Forgotten History of Black Artists to Be Uncovered in £700,000 Curation Project” (Daily Mail, London)