“Art changes only through strong convictions, and convictions strong enough to change society at the same time.”
Thoré’s sentence begins Linda Nochlin’s article, “The Invention of the Avant-Garde: France, 1830 – 80” (published in 1968 in ARTnews Annual XXXIV, edited by Thomas Hess and John Ashbery, with a focus on the avant-garde), which inspired me to write my first essay, “Letter to the Artist” (published in the first issue of the Rail, October 2000). We’re all grateful to Linda for her decisive conviction on everything she has put forth in her life’s work as an art historian and writer. Her scholarship and curation have paved the way for women artists, writers, curators—for everyone in the art world and beyond—to continue their individual and collective fights against personal and institutional discrimination.
In recent weeks we have witnessed divisive ethos continuing to spread across the world, especially in Syria, Tunisia, and Nigeria, and similar occurrences have befallen the United States. First, Donald Trump, announcing his candidacy for president on June 16th, totally forgot how this country was founded by immigrants from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, including his own (his mother from Scotland, his paternal grandparents from Germany), and voiced some of the most overtly racist, xenophobic rants against our Mexican brothers and sisters. Abhorrent racism was tragically carried over the next day, June 17th, in a shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine people were shot and killed as victims of a hate crime. All of us here at the Rail Headquarters, while working on the production of the summer issue, were in a pensive mood and distressed by our fellow man’s perpetual violence against other human beings. Fortunately the good news that lifted our spirits was the Supreme Court ruling on Friday, June 26th, a 5-4 vote for the right to same-sex marriage nationwide.
It was remarkably timely and reaffirming of our Rail Curatorial Project with the artist Patricia Cronin, Shrine for Girls at the 56th Venice Biennale, on two fronts: (1) Patricia’s lifelong advocacy of women’s liberation and gay marriage has come true (made famous by her Memorial to a Marriage, a bronze sculpture of her and her partner, our fellow artist Deborah Kass, embracing each other as a permanent declaration of self-marriage at a lot they bought together at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in 2002). (2) Shrine for Girls amplifies the urgency of our awareness of the violence mostly created by men against young women.
Equally reaffirming is the subject of interest of our guest editor in the Critics Page section of this summer issue. Maura Reilly, the newly appointed chief curator of the National Academy Museum and the editor of Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader, and many friends and admirers, are paying collective tribute to Linda and all she has done to advance the issue of global feminism. Then on Sunday, July 5th, the U.S. soccer team won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup against Japan by the score of 5-2, which was the highest-scoring final game in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Carli Lloyd with her hat trick was sensational.
On behalf of the Rail I should take this opportunity to congratulate our friends Meredith Martin and Heron Hass on their marriage on June 27th, just the day after same-sex marriage was granted by the Supreme Court, along with endless others who have contemporaneously celebrated their own weddings. We’d like to send our best wishes to our friend, the painter Ron Gorchov, for his speedy recovery from a recent small accident.
Our longtime readers will take note, in this and future issues of the Rail, that we’ve made some changes to our style. Most noticeably, in the Art and ArtSeen sections, we now indicate titles of individual artworks in italics rather than between quotation marks, reflecting a move towards consistency with our other sections and with many of our fellow art-world publications.
Have a positive, restful, and productive summer.
In solidarity from all of us,
* This issue is dedicated to Linda Nochlin, for her inspiring life and work, and to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on their championship, a result of teamwork no doubt. We also would like to send our belated happy birthday wishes to our Rail comrades Thyrza Goodeve (June 29) and Ann McCoy (July 8).
P.S. Below are several exhibits I highly recommend for your viewing pleasure:
Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.