For this assignment, please read and watch the following, then answer questions 1-5.
A. Read Negar Azimi, “Good Intentions,” republished as “Negar Azimi on Art and Activism,” in Frieze: A to Z of Contemporary Art, London, and New York, 2016, pp. 82-93.
Proposed summary: Negar Azimi argues that the character of political art has changed over the past 20 or 30 years. As she sees it, politically engaged art is now a recognized field that operates in a safe zone of institutional recognition and support. Furthermore, the artists who make such works are professionals who specialize in what amounts to a market segment in the economy of exhibiting and buying works of art. One implication of this is that artists need the financial support and opportunities to exhibit and market their works that institutional affiliation provides, even as they critique the system that sustains those institutions and, therefore, their own work. Azimi suggests that in part as a result, not only is politically engaged art absorbed into the system that it critiques, it also inadvertently bolsters that system. Thus, a further implication of her argument is that the voices of career-minded artists who devote themselves to (or specialize in) political critique are neutralized; they are heard but cannot affect change, in part because they perpetuate the system even by criticizing it.
B. LaToya Ruby Frazier is a prominent photographer, video artist, and performance artist whose work is largely devoted to political activism. Among the issues that she addresses are problems of social and environmental devastation in post-industrial communities, racial inequality, and healthcare inequities. Her website recounts her extremely impressive list of accomplishments, as well as the recognition that she has received for her work. It also lists some of the collections that have acquired her art, including not only important museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York but also the corporate collection of the global banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase. She is represented as an artist by the prestigious Gladstone Gallery in New York and Brussels, in Rome by Sant Andrea de Scaphis, and for speaking engagements by The Lavin Agency.
Read the “About” page on LaToya Ruby Frazier’s website: http://www.latoyarubyfrazier.com/about/
Watch “LaToya Ruby Frazier Makes Moving Pictures” (6:56 minutes) https://art21.org/watch/new-york-close-up/latoya-ruby-frazier-makes-moving-pictures/
Watch “LaToya Ruby Frazier Takes on Levi’s” (6:31 minutes) https://art21.org/watch/new-york-close-up/latoya-ruby-frazier-takes-on-levis/
Assignment 4 – The Artist as Activist (cont.)
Does the summary of Negar Azimi’s essay proposed above represent it accurately? (In answering, give references to page numbers or quotes from passages in the essay.)
In the Levi’s video, what does LaToya Ruby Frazier say her responsibility as an artist is?
In the Moving Pictures video, what is it that she says she is combatting? How does her art attempt to do that?
Based on what you have seen and heard, does she seem to be preoccupied with provoking an aesthetic response to her work? Why do you answer the way you do?
In your reasoned opinion, does Frazier’s art confirm or contradict Azimi’s observations about politically engaged art? Why (with precise references to the essay and videos)?
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