I’m sure you’ve noticed that it has gotten very quiet here. A lot has happened since the last post and it has been exciting and busy months for me. If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook or have checked our website, you’ll probably already know that the research project and the blog have developed into an exhibition.
The exhibition has the same starting point as the research project; the Museum Ludwig’s collection of US-American art. And it also has the same name: Mapping the Collection. But, instead of looking at the entire 20th century, the exhibition only looks at two decades of art and culture in the United States: 1960s and 1970s.
The museum’s collection is at its strongest when it comes to these two decades and at the same time, these two decades were game-changing for the further development of society and politics in the United States. Given the research project’s focus on post-colonialism, or settler colonialism feminism and gender or queer theory in the arts, it makes sense for the exhibition to focus on these years that not only brought on great changes for the United States but also are the point of origin for these theoretical approaches. The civil rights movement brought the end of segregation, the women’s movement and gay liberation advocated for equal rights and against discrimination based on sex and gender and the anti-war movement protested the United States military campaigns in Southeast Asia and also questioned American imperialism. The Red Power movement fought for sovereignty, self-determination, the recognition of the treaties and for better living conditions for the indigenous communities. And in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, inspired by the Black Panther Party, the Chicano movement for empowerment for the Latinx community, for better schools and health care and against police brutality and discrimination.
These movements led to wide-ranging changes in American society that also had an impact on culture and art. Artists made art in response to these changes, others became activists and organized in groups such as the Art Workers Coalition or the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. They demanded fair wages for art workers and tried to improve the lives of others by initiating prison art programs. Gallerists and artists organized exhibitions to raise funds for different civil rights organizations.
As an exhibition, Mapping the Collection brings together works from the museum’s collection with a selection of works of art by artists that aren’t in the collection. These artists are mainly from the African-American, Latinx, indigenous or queer communities. By bringing their work together with that of artists who are more familiar to us, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, Andy Warhol, Louise Nevelson or Martha Rosler, the exhibition shows that they played a just as important role in the development of US-American art and culture as these more familiar names. This juxtaposition shows what impact the societal changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s had on these artists as individuals. Furthermore, it becomes clear that aesthetic and formal developments transcended boundaries of gender and ethnicity, but we can also see how these were insurmountable obstacles and that as a result, they did not receive that same chances, publicity or critical reception.
The exhibition was scheduled to open in April 2020 but given the current health crisis, we have decided to push the exhibition back to the end of May for now. Meanwhile, I want to use this space to talk about my research at the Museum Ludwig and the preparations for the exhibition. You’ll find posts about artists and works of art from the collection and the exhibition but also longer posts that will focus on social and political topics. There will also be book and movie recommendations and Spotify playlists. I’m looking forward to reviving this space again!