What happens when a writer is at a loss for words? When all that seemed to make sense suddenly doesn’t. I started to write this text in late December. It was meant to be my best and worst (a first!) picks of 2016. However, once I started writing, the language took me in another direction. This usually doesn’t happen since if I have a particular idea or subject in mind, I am able to carry on.
Looking back at 2016, so many things can arise that may have been tucked away. One thing that never changes is that with each year we are faced with both the good and the bad aspects of life in various facets. Contemporary art is a valuable part of society and in the global context –whether we realize it or not– it reflects our current times. Such is the case when for better or for worse, artists and cultural architects look at our world and translate what they see and feel into a visual information. Similarly, writers interpret visual information and curate words into what could be considered text-based exhibitions. It might sound unexpected, but articles and essays are curated. Each author, decides when a paragraph ends, a sentence should come to close. In the same way, a painter decides when and where to place a brush stroke, someone may choose to place a comma or a period.
Words flutter around pages and Internet windows at an incredible rate, always changing, reporting on the moment. On Instagram, photographs flash before us in vertical format. Places, food and art exhibitions are experienced through a two-inch square. While technology has grown in leaps and bounds even in my lifetime, we are still unable to travel, taste, or truly participate in art through this platform. It is something that has completely changed the way we look, communicate and relate to one another. It is easy to spend hours –yes hours– of time on social media, just looking. This said, absolutely nothing beats the true, three-dimensional understanding of space, the world that surrounds us, that we exist in. Within the time-bound composition of 2016, the earth continued to rotate on its axis, but things started to notably shift.
Specifically in late 2016, politics were on the forefront of every American’s mind, as we approached the election of the 45th President of the United States. Along with this looming changing of the guard, we were also aware of terrorism, the refugee crisis, global warming, and natural disasters both through the media and through art. Artists like Hank Willis Thomas (For Freedoms) and Ai Wei Wei (with his exhibition at Jeffrey Deitch) helped to widen the reach of issues such as the political landscape as well as bring attention to the crisis of asylum seekers. There was a particular sense of action in the air, at once hanging and invisible, it bubbled ever so slightly. We were with her and so many in New York and beyond wanted Hillary Clinton to win the Presidential race. While fear was present as we neared election day, she was predicted to win. But on that dark day when so many hopefuls gathered inside and outside the Jacob Javits Center, collective moods started to drop as her numbers weren’t rising as fast as his. Fast forward to 2017 and yes, Donald J. Tr*mp was just officially inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. As quickly as it occurred, women’s marches all over the globe –in many cases flanked by men– took place peacefully protesting the inauguration. Also, just hours after the Presidential transition became official several tabs were removed on the official whitehouse.gov website. The website, as it appeared under the Obama administration has been archived and included links and text to Climate Change, HIV/AIDS Strategy, Civil Rights, Disability rights, Healthcare and the option to translate the website en español. All of which no longer appear under the current command. In New York, one of the die-hard blue states, a cloud of disdain has hung heavily in the air, possibly only replaced by a pink cloud as thousands marched in protest. So what is happening in the art world? Well, we keep pushing forward.
Contemporary art is a force to be reckoned with and I am still waiting for a moment of Post-Contemporary to enter my sphere. This year marks the return of Documenta with Documenta (14) which will take place in both Kassel and Athens. Organized by Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk the show which only occurs every five years, will be open in April 2017 in Athens and June 2017 in Kassel. While Germany and Greece will bring a global art audience via Documenta (14), Italy will have it’s fair share of visitors as well with VIVA ARTE VIVA, the 57th Venice Biennial curated by Christine Macel. Commencing May 10th for press and VIPs, the Biennial will be open to the public until November 2017. A selection of featured artists include: Boris Mikhailov (Ukraine), Sharon Lockhart (Poland), Anne Imhof (Germany), Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, and Adelita Husni-Bey (Italy), Mark Bradford (USA), and many others.
Since art fairs are such a dominant part of the art market, the concept of both the Venice Biennial and Documenta set the stage for not only what has happened, delving into art history, but what is to come. Other exhibitions to look forward to in 2017 include, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at the New Museum (April 26th through September 3rd), the Whitney Biennial (March 17th through June 11th) along with Laura Owens –also opening at the Whitney Museum– (November 2017) and Hugo Boss 2016 winner Anicka Yi whose solo exhibition will open at the Guggenheim Spring 2017.
In times of political unrest, art will always not only be present but carry a different weight. While the world may disappoint, art will not. Now more than ever we need to stomp with heavy, yet assured feet, into galleries, museums, art studios, residencies and not-for-profit art organizations alike with the intention of not only observation but support. The goal of every artist is to have their work looked at and lived with. These visual voices can be heard shouting in silence: through color, form, movement and stillness. It is our role as viewers to not only consider but also traverse various genres and mediums to determine taste. We need to support all but especially focus on women, minorities and LGBTQ artists. Unfortunately it is the goal of some in particular political roles to suppress what they do not understand. It is our role to recognize and celebrate those who create.
As a response to the Tr*mp Presidency, Eyes Towards the Dove will start featuring artists each month who fit into one of the above roles. The column, Now More Than Ever will be an introduction to artists who may be already known or completely under the radar. Our goal is to keep the dialogue open and to be an instigator for discussion. Hope you will join us for the ride.
Katy Diamond Hamer is the Founding Editor in Chief of Eyes Towards the Dove. She has been writing on contemporary art and culture since 2007. For more, follow her on Instagram @katyhamer
Editor’s note: Ms. Hamer is currently choosing to write the President’s surname as “Tr*mp” using an asterisk instead of the letter u because in this moment, writing the full name is still too much to bear.