Aruna D’ Souza’s lecture will focus on Lorraine O’Grady’s artwork and The Black and White Show, a conceptual project/exhibition curated by O’Grady in 1983. O’Grady’s project was a response to New York’s segregated art world by inviting 28 artists, 14 of whom were black and 14 white, to contribute artwork in black and white. O’Grady wrote, “Achromaticity would heighten similarities and flatten differences. And it would be the first exhibit I’d seen in the still virtually segregated art world with enough black presence to create dialogue.” O’Grady’s black-and-white exhibition addressed color as a formal component with social and political implications.
D’souza’s book Whitewalling takes a critical look at three case studies of the American art scene which ignited dialogue about how museums, curators and artists wrestle with notions of free speech and censorship. In 2017, the Whitney Biennial included a painting by a white artist, Dana Schutz, of the lynched body of Emmett Till. D’Souza goes on to discuss a 1979 and a 1969 exhibition at Artists Space and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively, to highlight what has changed or, more pointedly, how art institutions perpetuate entrenched inequality.
Aruna D’Souza writes about modern and contemporary art; intersectional feminisms and other forms of politics; and how museums shape our views of each other and the world. Her most recent book Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts (Badlands Unlimited) was named one of the best art books of 2018 by the New York Times. Her work appears regularly in 4Columns.org, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board, and has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Art News, Garage, Bookforum, Momus, Art in America, and Art Practical, among other places. She is currently editing two forthcoming volumes, Making It Modern: A Linda Nochlin Reader, and Lorraine O’Grady: Writing in Space 1973-2018.