Grief & Grievance: A Discussion

Recorded April 2021. Led by Sculptor Garth Evens, and joined for the talk by Karen Wilkin, Jock Ireland, Brandt Junceau, and Rachael Bohlander. Sculpture Forum confronts Grief & Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, a show, envisioned by curator Okwui Enwezor, encompassing 97 works by 37 Black artists working in the United States. Video and editing by Rachael Bohlander.

The following are excerpts from the subsequent discussion. Please use the REPLY button at the bottom of the page to add a comment or reply. Contributions to the discussion are welcome:

While we’re calling ourselves the Sculpture Forum, there is not a huge amount in the exhibition that would fall within what I personally think of as the tradition of sculpture as a language of things—physical things—finite, physical things—stable, finite, physical things. There’s a good deal more that seems to live within the tradition of painting. But I was struck by the extent to which those traditional categories seem to be not comfortable for many of the people that are included in this exhibition. –GARTH EVANS

And the fact that they brought it off at all, these days, is something one has to be grateful for. Any exhibition that is completed, and is installed, and that people get to see. And you know there are a lot of museums in this country that aren’t open yet. We’re very fortunate. –KAREN WILKIN

The Jafa piece—the video was really quite sculptural in some sense because it was so much about the figure and the body—the body in terms of something vulnerable, fragile, at risk—and the figure in terms of the body in movement, the body among people. As a sculptor I found it really moving. –BRANDT JUNCEAU

Jock, I think you’re in some ways confusing me with Michelangelo and Leonardo, but at the same time I take it that you are making a point—that a lot of the work in this show is coming from a place and being made by people who cannot ignore the world outside them. And we perhaps—or I perhaps—have the privilege, and have had, and have enjoyed the privilege throughout my life really of being able to shut the world out to some extent, and think about it in a very abstract way. Perhaps what I’m confronted with in this exhibition is work from people where that is simply not an option, or not the same option. –GARTH EVANS

4 thoughts on “Grief & Grievance: A Discussion

  1. Thanks for this Jock

    I watched it this morning, a very weird experience watching it. Listening to a bunch of white art people trying to fit these works into their experience, and the tradition as you all said, it was sort of clueless and ignorant and lost, and a real desire to be seen to be doing the right thing, to be politically correct, which seems to be where a lot of white Americans are now, wanting to be seen to be sympathetic and trying to listen and make sense of, from their point of view, but the system is inside of white Americans, white Americans are all part of the system of oppression, \

    so how do we see it?

    How do we learn to listen?

    I think by going back and immersing yourself in it, as I will be doing again, but try not to put it in any contexts, especially the white western tradition, as that will stop you seeing and stop you feeling

    Brandt spoke of the overwhelming feeling of the whole, which I agree as it was my experience, and wisely he stopped there.

    Karen interesting compared and contrasted with white artists, David Smith,

    And used Paul Georges, etc etc, as examples of artists who have been overlooked by the art world, not black artists .

    It was amazing to listen to

    Frightening really

    Except that we are now seeing just how deep this all goes

    So maybe not frightening at all

    James Kahn came on afterwards, which I also listened to

    His approach was very different, less judging, less at sea with what he didn’t understand.

    We’ve much to do

    And Rose Wylie was awesome, Ray Johnson interesting at times, loved how qwerky he was,

    And free from the formal yet he found an aesthetic order

    Thanks again



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your comment, PB.
      You mentioned a James Kalm (I’m assuming you meant “Kalm”—not “Kahn”) video. I couldn’t find one on Grief and Grievance. I’m guessing you meant his most recent one on the big show at The Hole. Yes, James is great, very relaxed, just looking, not judging, as you say. Sculpture Forum is different, as you also say.
      You mention Brandt’s speaking of “the overwhelming feeling of the whole”—and his “wisely stopping there.” I forget exactly when that came up in the Forum, but I remember wanting to give that comment a poke. I wondered about the exhibition as a whole being the creation of a curator or a bunch of curators—to what extent does that take away from the particular artists, the particular drawings/paintings/sculptures/whatnot in the show? I’m not trying to get into an argument about the title, “Grief and Grievance,” covering every aspect of every piece in the show. Just trying to be clear about this show being different from the monographic or historically focused museum shows we’re used to seeing. This show seemed to be a response to a current/“living” moment in history—something NOT completely understood. But the show was put together in the spirit of trying to help us all understand what’s going on.
      I’m being analytical, judgmental, argumentative. You’re coming more from what might be described as the realm of feeling. You’re impatient with analysis/whatnot. That’s OK: Sculpture Forum strives to be a place for all kinds of different points of view. The danger with what I’m calling the realm of feeling is that it can be an excuse not to think. It’s important, as you suggest—and as Karen suggested in the Forum—simply to go back and see the show a number of times. It’s also important to keep thinking about the show, talking about it. Yes, us white guys have all kinds of limitations—but the show, it seems to me, was put together FOR us—as much as it was put together for EVERYbody else.


      1. I guess I should say something about being called “sort of clueless and ignorant and lost.” I don’t mind. I’m used to it. And I really am grateful for your comments. They’re direct, honest—maybe a bit too quick/superficial—but it’s bracing to hear what I’m sure not only you (I’m sure a big number of people share your take) felt about the discussion.
        Our friend Louis Finkelstein used to talk about visiting museums with friends and always ending up in a fight about something. Paintings can be understood in so many different ways. When we think we understand a painting, we really think we understand it: we think we own the painting: there’s no way anybody else could be right about it. Then, of course, somebody comes along and changes our understanding.
        We can agree on one thing: the thing to do is go back to see the Grief and Grievance show again and again.


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