Saturday, January 31, 2015

From Tehran to Ferguson: Social Justice in Contemporary Art - A Conversation Begins

Titus Kaphar
Oil, gold leaf and tar on wood panel
7 × 10 ½ in.
Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

©Titus Kaphar

As protests against police brutality continue across the United States in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, contemporary  artists have joined the debate in artworks of extraordinary power and grace. From the Occupy Movement, to LGBT rights, to Black Lives Matter, to the issues surrounding “Je suis Charlie”, contemporary art, often of a representational bent, helps shed light on the complex nature of our times.

Feroze Alam and Ravinder Padam

As a contemporary artist, I find it necessary to engage in the issue of social justice in my own artwork, and have found myself part of a disparate but powerful artistic community of painters and sculptors from Feroze Alam and Ravinder Padam in London, to Titus Kaphar, Kehinde Wiley and Joy Garnett in New York, to Paint for Peace in St. Louis, to Mark Vallen in Los Angeles, to David Dalla Venezia in Venice, Italy. 

For the past four years, I have been an invited lecturer on Art and Social Justice at UCLA and drawing from the content of my lectures and the feedback I have received from students and faculty, I aim to deepen and expand the dialogue.  Art goes beyond the mere hashtag to the heart of the matter in the social struggles of our times. 

I will start on Monday with a piece on the beautifully provocative art of Titus Kaphar which is currently on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which offers free admission today - Saturday, January 31st. I hope you join me in this journey.

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