This weekend I went to The Guggenheim with my sister. We had intended to go to the Jewish Museum to see an exhibition by Art Spiegleman, but the line was too long, so we went to the Guggenheim instead. We were annoyed that our original plans had been spoiled, annoyed at paying $14, annoyed that we didn't even know what was showing. The museum's main spiral was closed for an installation of Futurist works, but tucked up on the 4th floor, after much wandering and whining "isn't there any art in here at all?" we found the powerful work of Carrie Mae Weems.
We stood in front of her series "Not Manet's Type," and had a sister mind-meld moment. "THIS is why we're here."
Weems uses mostly photography, text, and video to explore gender roles, racism, sexism, class, and various political systems. She uses her work as a means to shine a light on "ignored or erased" histories and peoples. One series, "American Icons" (1988) captures everyday racism on an unconscious level by photographing quiet stills of an average American home that includes historically racist knick-knacks and tchotchkes.
"Slow Fade to Black" (2010) features large prints of black female performers throughout history. The images are printed large and purposefully out of focus to comment on the eventual erasure of these icons from our collective memory. Viewing these images in person is a total mindfuck. They demand you to squint, stare, try to force your eyes to refocus and adjust on a focal point that isn't there. It made me a little nauseous, I loved it.
After seeing Weems' work, the Kandinsky exhibit was positively boring.
Carrie Mae Weems is the first black woman to have a retrospective shown at The Guggenheim. The first step in making the art establishment face and fix their 'woman problem' is to go see shows like these, and to demand more.
CARRIE MAE WEEMS: THREE DECADES OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO The Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave, New York City The show runs through May 14, 2014.
*All images from carriemaeweems.net*