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Dewey Crumpler is an artist, professor, and long time participant in San Franciscos cultural conversations. As a muralist, hes made work that is in direct conversation with older public artworks deemed politically insensitive. Crumpler prefers artwork that challenges social stigmas to be discussed rather than destroyed or hidden from sight. His paintings of hooded figures, currently on view at Cushion Works, were the impetus for the following conversation. We discuss Crumplers mural at George Washington High School, the enigmatic object that has influenced three decades of his creative work, and how teaching informs his art practice.
Gillian Laub has been photographing societal conflicts for more than 20 years. Her portraits of Israeli Jews and Arabs, Lebanese, and Palestinians whose lives were upended by the conflict in the Middle East were collected in the book Testimony (Aperture, 2007). Her series Southern Rites, which began as a New York Times Magazine assignment to photograph segregated proms in Georgia, eventually became a decade-long photographic project that turned into a traveling exhibition and a documentary film about racial tensions and the legacy of racial inequality. She is used to swimming in turbulent social and political waters and taking viewers on a deep dive that goes beyond surface impressions. But the most painful subject matter personally has probably been the one shes explored in her new book, Family Matters (Aperture, 2021), also an exhibition by the same name on view at the International Center of Photography through January 10, 2022.
Glenn Ligons practice is so multi-faceted that separate interviews could be devoted to his curating and to his art writing, as well as to the most obvious topic of his art-making. Recently, Ligon has also directly addressed online misuse of his work. While we touched on those topics, this conversation, which was conducted on Zoom the month before his November exhibition of new work at Hauser & Wirth in New York (this will be his first New York show with the gallery), focuses on his art, especially his recent mural-scaled paintings using the entire text of James Baldwins 1953 essay A Stranger in the Village.
There are those who believe a work of art doesnt exist until it is discussed. As a young artist in Chicago, one of Dread Scotts first audiences was the Supreme Court of the United States from whom a discussion on the merits of a work of art can stimulate a populace. The particular aspect of Scotts work that disturbed them: standing on the American flag. The sitting President made a statement; the conversations led to change. Dread Scott (b.1965) was just getting started. Since then his performance work has inspired and provoked a generation of artists for whom political and historical reckoning are central to their practice. On its most fundamental level much of Scotts work comes down to how a person engages an environment: What they do, or dont do.
As a curator and writer committed to contemporary art, for decades Ive pursued art that explores and adapts to the nonstop changes in technology and in the people who use it. Upgrade is the name of the game. Praxis means keeping my finger on the pulse by engaging directly with artistsemerging and establishedand keeping an open dialogue with passionate colleagues. Everyone adapts in their own way.