It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the colloquial nature of works and to cast light in spaces traditionally obstructed by the negative isms. Though, to truly interrogate and understand how the artwork impacts societal themes, beyond the subcategory of yet another subcategory (African American art, African American art of the South) our cultural institutions must be increasingly creative and forward thinking.
In the case of NGA, Called to Create, curated by Harry Cooper, comes four years after its 2018 show Outliers and American Vanguard Art, curated by Lynne Cooke, Sr. Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art, which explored the significance of “folk art” and the relationship between “schooled and self taught” artists across the twentieth century including members from the SGD collection.
The current showing, though primarily meant to celebrate the acquisition, leaves something to be desired in the realm of storytelling. It would have been great to see them contextualized alongside other objects in the museum’s permanent collection or explored through a different lens than the one we’ve been using for years.
As an entry point for visitors unfamiliar with traditionally “othered” works of art, inscribing relevance by way of cross-connectivity allows us to reexamine history in a more inclusive manner, drawing in multiple viewpoints and experiences to cultivate those deeper understandings Lampkins-Fielder is hoping to achieve.
Fortunately, on March 10th, the museum will host a half-day symposium including artists and scholars whose practices are in direct conversation with Called to Create. The line-up which includes Lisa Gail Collins and Sanford Biggers looks very promising.
SGD’s ability to achieve their mission in the long-term is bound to the curatorial and programmatic decisions of its partnered organizations. Encouraging exchange and emphasizing intersectionality stimulate new ideas across the field that will ideally, over time, drift into mainstream consciousness.