To Describe a Life Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror Darby English

Series:
Richard D. Cohen Lectures on African and African American Art
Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
24 Jan 2019
ISBN:
9780300230383
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
160 pages: 254 x 178mm
Illustrations:
70 color illus.

Categories:

A passionate, rigorous, and persuasive look at the helpful complexity of art during a time of profound cultural turmoil

By turns historical, critical, and personal, this book examines the use of art—and of love—as resources amid the recent wave of shootings by American police of innocent black women and men. Darby English attends to a cluster of artworks created in or for our tumultuous present. Addressing themes of racial violence and representation, these idiosyncratic works neither offer solutions nor accommodate simplistic narratives about difference. In Zoe Leonard’s Tipping Point, English sees an embodiment of love in the face of brutality; in Kerry James Marshall’s untitled 2015 portrait of a black male police officer, a greatly fraught subject treated without apparent judgment; in Pope.L’s Skin Set Drawings, a life project undertaken to challenge codified uses of difference, color, and language; and, in a replica of the Lorraine Motel—the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968—a monument to the unfinished business of the integrated nonviolent movement for Civil Rights. These works unsettle and refuse to satisfy any particular political demand. Powerful, challenging, and timely, To Describe a Life is an invitation to rethink what life in ongoing crisis is and can be—and, indeed, to discover how art can help.

Darby English is the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago and author of 1971: A Year in the Life of Color and How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness.