Suggested Reading: The Surreal Reality of the Art World

The biggest wave of art fairs are over. For 2014 at least. However, talk of the wild and crazy nights on Miami beach rage on. On the other hand, so do the civil rights protests over the injustices of the non-indictments in the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. The use of excessive force against oppressed communities has been a longstanding issue in this country and it is unfortunate that it took these tragic events to bring this dialog to the national level. It was an eerie and grotesque juxtaposition seeing my social media feed displaying images from the art market excess and celebrity driven parties of Art Basel, and graphic, poignant images from the protests and rallies. The tale of two cities is apparent. This weeks readings focuses solely on this major contradiction of both the art market excess, and how the arts benefit social justice.

– The Washington Post has published a very striking series of political cartoons that resonate the sentiments around the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was killed by a police man due to the use of an illegal choke hold. via Washington Post

– Artist Dread Scott talks to playwright/actor/activist Roger Guenveur Smith about his solo show “Rodney King,” as well as the most recent injustice in the death of Eric Garner. via BRIC Brooklyn Independent Media

– “My Death Must Mean Something More: Justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown,” is a protest song by sound artist Matana Roberts, musician Me’shell Ndegeocello and poet Staceyann Chin. via Creative Time Reports

“It could have been me. It could have been me.” These words were from Jean-Michel Basquiat after the brutal 1983 police brutality death of a NYC Graffiti artist named Michael Stewart. “Basquiat went on to create Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), not only to commemorate the young man’s death, but also to challenge the state-sanctioned brutality that men of color could face for pursuing their art in public spaces.” via NPR

– The death of Michael Stewart sadly reverberated in a more recent police brutality related death of a street artist. “Four months after the promising 18-year-old street artist Israel “Reefa” Hernandez died after being tasered by Miami Beach police officer Jorge Mercado, friends and family in the Justice for Reefa Coalition used last week’s series of art fairs to raise awareness for what they believe to be an unjustified killing. The group has been joined by the Dream Defenders, the same group that occupied the Florida state capital building for 31 days following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.” via Miami New Times

– Has the commercial art world lost touch with reality? Jillian Steinhauer writes about the contradicting social media trends #BlackLivesMatter and #ArtBasel and the cognitive dissonance of “living simultaneously in the real world and the art world, which feel so frustratingly far apart.” via Hyperallergic

– And here is a great critical analysis from Joseph Nechvatal about the vapidity of Jeff Koons’ (the golden calf of the commercial art world) art. “In the discourse around (and by) Koons, the heroic fight against art as elite class snobbery is often heard. After examining his entire body of work, it is apparent to me that this is a shiny red herring used to justify the dumb-down ethos employed in his art, art that bends towards the low hanging fruit of reductive simplification.” via Hyperallergic

– Does social practice have a role in the art museum? Read these fighting words from Ariana Jacob. via Walker Art Center

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