Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Redding takes issue with Gopnik review

Robert "Rob" Redding Jr. is an artist, author, radio host and journalist and he:

...has won an Associated Press award for Internet news and has won numerous awards for his radio show. He has won an ADDY award for his nationally syndicated show. He has has also been called "one of the most respected names in the media" (Upscale magazine), "one of the most intellectual and intriguing radio talk show hosts since Tavis Smiley" (Radio Facts) and a "rising star" and one of the "100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America" (Talkers magazine).
He also has an issue with last Sunday's review by Washington Post Chief Art critic Blake Gopnik titled National Gallery exhibit challenges traditional view of Rothko's black paintings.

Redding writes that "As an artist and journalist, I was horrified when I read the recent review by Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik. Gopnik wrote a review of Mark Rothko's rehung black-dominated artworks at the National Gallery of Art."

Later he explains that "... As a black journalist, I find it disturbing that Gopnik decides to needlessly inject race into his art review. Gopnik points out the race of the 'notably dark' guards after he says that race should be considered when viewing Rothko's works."

Read Redding's case here.

Is the review racist or insensitive? Comments welcome.

Update: Philippa P.B. Hughes has an interesting viewpoint here.


Anonymous said...

Good Lord! Gopnik's review is totally bizarre! I'd say "racist" but it's so over-the-top that it falls more into the insane category... what the hell was he thinking?1? Well, I guess we know what he was thinking because it got published in the Post... and I wonder how he knew that the guards were "happy" guarding the work... did he ask them?

Anonymous said...

Over and over again we note how Gopnik is so often off-the-wall or flat out wrong. He seems to miss the mark more than he hits it. This makes me wonder, then, why we get excited when he praises any show. I recall that recently he praised a photography show at Civilian. Everyone was so excited that He gave positive ink to the show. But I hesitate. If he's so often wrong about other shows, why isn't he wrong about all of them? Why do we pick and choose which Gopnik reviews are noteworthy for their insight and accuracy?

For me, he has absolutely no credibility. I think we should stop giving it to him here and there. That is, until (if) he deserves it.

The Right Reverend James W. Bailey said...

Blake Gopnik, The World's Smartest Art Critic ™, strikes again.

The following sounds like something from Gone With The Wind:

As I stood watching Rothko's works, I noticed that I was being watched in turn -- by two African American security guards, both in regulation blue-black suits and both with notably dark complexions. And it suddenly seemed wrong to reduce the complex color of their skin -- or, for that matter, of any color out there in the world -- to a single formulaic reading. These guards, happily protecting the works under their care, certainly didn't stand for existential angst, or for a depressive mood, any more than the pervasive blacks and charcoals in the clothing of many of my fellow visitors -- tones which these Rothkos helped me notice more than before -- said anything about their brains' serotonin levels. If anything, these paintings risk coming off as almost too stylish for their own good: Like an elegant Armani suit on a gorgeous woman, they are more likely to leave you smiling than blue.

Too bad Massa Gopnik can't jump into a Hot Tub Time Machine and jump back in time as the art critic for the Atlanta Constitution - circa 1861.

Blake would be right at home surrounded by people with 'notably dark complexions' engaged in the action of 'happily' picking cotton.

I suspect that Blake, in his past life, was the lead art critic in charge of reviewing the 'notably dark complexions' of those slaves depicted 'happily' picking cotton on the face of Confederate currency.

Before there were the black paintings of Rothko there was the 'complex color of their skin' found inked on Confederate currency @ http://www.rebelstatescurrency.com/confederate.html

"I wish I was in de land ob Rothko cotton, Old times dar at the National Gallery am not forgotten. Look away! Look away! Look away! Washington Post White Art Critic Land!"

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I think the bunch of you should take the racial chip off your shoulders. It's 2010 for God's sake.

Anonymous said...

"It's 2010 for God's sake."

Um, I think this is the point that's being made!

The Right Reverend James W. Bailey said...

Anonymous 12:17 PM said "It's 2010 for God's sake."

I respectfully disagree with you on that. Actually, the art world follows the Gopnik Painting Is Dead Calendar, which means we're still stuck in time on November 5, 2005, which is the famous date that Gopnik coined the phrase 'barely emerging artist.'


Man, the time warp that phrase created sure generated a lot controversy:


I still have no idea what a barely emerging artist is.

But I have no doubt that Blake Gopnik, The World's Smartest Art Critic ™, not only knows what a barely emerging artist is, but also knows what a barely emerging artist with a notably dark complexion must be.

It's November 5, 2005 all over again.

Anonymous said...

I do not care for Blake Gopnik's writing, but I don't see what is racist about what he wrote. What he is attempting to say is that you can't call the color black one note, it is a symphony, just like the blackness of the skin of the art museum guard. He is attempting to say Black is Beautiful. But he unfortunately is a geeky white man who can't dance. Is that racist of me to say that?

Lenny said...

After much thinking on this, I don't really think that Gopnik is a racist. In fact, I'm pretty sure that he is not.

What this is, however, is another example of his somewhat bizarre turns in his writing, and easily a very awkward piece of writing trying to deliver a somewhat nonsensical point forward and in territory that he is not familiar with the nuances and perceptions of the words and phrases that he used.

I think that his editor (Scott Vogel) shares some of the blame for this piece. He is the safety valve in the process who should have said, "Blake, this all reads a little odd, and people might be offended."

Anonymous said...

Now that the furor has died down... For me as a Black reader, the reference to skin color was gratuitous and awkward, but that doesn't make it racist. The riffing on the guards' state of mind was kind of questionable though, but I don't think it warrants Redding's reaction. The public apology thing is way over-rated.

The irony is that Gopnik could well have picked up that approach from discourse among Black folks. I've heard us make some really far-fetched associations made between the color black and people of African descent. Sometimes (as in this case, I think) black is just a color.

Phillipa Hughes' comments were interesting, but I think the most powerful use and metaphors about skin color in art occur with deliberate intent, as in Solomon Wondimu's Skin Color Project. Check out the Pollock-style drip/spash pieces and the Sojourner Truth portrait!

hoogrrl said...

I love the way Wondimu shows how much variation there is in a person's skin tone, which sorta makes Gopnik's point, but in a much more sensible way!

Anonymous said: I think the most powerful use and metaphors about skin color in art occur with deliberate intent, as in Solomon Wondimu's Skin Color Project. Check out the Pollock-style drip/spash pieces and the Sojourner Truth portrait!

Adrienne Mills said...

I've never been a fan of Gopnik. I'm an artist. I'm black. I've also been blue, blue/black, purple, red, silver, bronze and patterned. My work is my personal exploration of how skin color alters perception and attitude so Redding's comments really got my interest.
I read Gopnik's article. I read it again. And then just one more time because I couldn't see anything racist in it. Even the awkward parts smoothed out by the third reading. The happy guards thing wasn't racist. I always talk to guards at museums and most enjoy the art just as much as the visitors. Is Gopnik a racist because the minorities employed by most museums are usually guards and they happily do their job?
Much to my surprise, the article made me rethink my opinion of Gopnik. Maybe he's not such a bad egg after all.