September 2, 2015

Art Bloggers of the Week: Jessica Lynne + Taylor Renee Aldridge in Detroit and New York, USA



Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee Aldridge



Sometimes to defend your ideas, you have to talk loudly. "'Sound'," so I read in a review by Taylor Renee Aldridge, "is a metaphor for the act of protest -  to be heard you have to speak loudly especially as a black person in America seeking social justice." Also writing is a voice, and a powerful one it is. If something is not written about, in the end it doesn't exist. The art reviews in the blog ARTS.BLACK by Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee Aldridge are more than written pieces. They are actions that started off with a manifesto. It's a 21st century kind of manifesto: multilayered, collective, accumulativeNotice the plural in "The Home of Art Criticism from Black Perspectives." And like the best manifestoes, ARTS.BLACK has a clear and precise purpose, a platform "predicated on the belief that art criticism should be an accessible dialogue - a tool through which we question, celebrate and talk back to the global world of contemporary art." Sometimes the aim for clarity even leads Jessica Lynne to list-making when the narrative seems to distract. I'm a fan of lists, and yes, I'm a fan of ARTS.BLACK! You can be too, and follow on Twitter, Instagram and if you feel inspired, check out the submission guidelines!


Art Scene

T: The Detroit “art scene” is one that is in influx. It is going through an interesting series of developments -- with inexpensive real estate, the city is very attractive to artists who have been living and working in more expensive American cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Artists can come here and get more for their money: larger studio space, cheaper rent, etc. Yet, the transplant artists who Detroit has attracted, in some ways, compromise, and overshadow the artists and art communities who have been here prior to the city's “revitalization.” 

J: The New York art scene that is most often derided in public is the sterile, blue chip art world that has become a slave to the market, rotating the same 4 or 5 superstars each season.  And that reality has driven so many artists and arts workers out of the city. Still, what I love most about New York is that underneath the surface, there are multiple communities of arts administrators and workers who are choosing to live outside of the white cube. To me, that’s what makes New York special. That there is space for the multiplicity. 

Blog 

T: The blog started in a sort of call and response manner. About this time last year, I posed a question on Facebook “Where are all the young Black art critics?” A question inspired by a series of failed google searches. While the post was met with a great deal of responses, no one could provide me with an answer. And to that end, Jess and I began to brainstorm on a platform solely dedicated to art criticism and writing from Black perspectives. I purchased the domain prior to the Facebook post, but it seemed to be the most ideal moniker for our new endeavor. I think what we like most about blogging, is being able to participate in an endless realm of access and exchange within arts and cultural developments around the world. The contemporary arts landscape is one that has always been dictated by a limited group of pedigreed gatekeepers. Our blog, and being digitally visible allows us to interrogate the traditional and dated norms of contemporary arts writing and criticism and share voices that may have gone unheard otherwise if it were not for our platform.

J: I think Taylor eloquently captured the motivations for the site. Often, blogging connotes a lack of criticality. More and more, that belief is being challenged by art critics and writers and journalists who are using the digital world to find a home for their work. Indeed, as the world of journalism and media moves to an ever increasing digital format, what we know as art writing is becoming fluid and it feels good to know that Taylor and I can help shape what it looks like in this age. I hope that blogging can help feed a new generation of art critics into the mainstream. ARTS.BLACK is a just under a year old and we are seeing such a pattern in our own work as we connect with writers from all over the globe. 

Expertise 

T: Expertise is such a strong word. I have a background in art history with a Masters in Museum Studies. A field that is going through a cultural and structural shift. Much of my research and interest covers the implication of underrepresented ethnic audiences in traditional American art and cultural institutions and how these institutions can be more inclusive of minority groups. I think my ‘expertise’ has led me to the founding of ARTS.BLACK in a way, because I am constantly looking for voids in the arts industry -- underserved and underrepresented groups in particular. In America, this primarily includes disadvantaged, marginalized, historically oppressed groups of color. Thus when I write about art, I am conscious of how certain shows and works of art appeal to, represent or reflect people of color. 

J: It is hard for me to claim an expertise. However, outside of the field of art criticism, I am a museum professional and a development officer. Learning to think critically about how money is distributed in the arts, particularly from a non-profit perspective, is a fascinating experience. Philanthropy is never as neat and tidy as one might imagine it to be and this has taught me that sometimes it really is never what you know as much as it is who you know. As such, I’m particularly interested in the decision making processes in the art world: who gets to say yes and why? AND even more, how do we start to allow for new decision makers to grab a seat at the table? Perhaps even more than that, how do we build new tables?

Money 

J: Currently, we don’t make money directly from the site but we have been very fortunate to participate in some fantastic collaborations recently for which we have been compensated. These have included guest editorial work and two upcoming speaking engagements: Hand - in - Glove 2015 later this month and ArtPrize Seven in October. It has been very exciting to gather amongst our peers in the field and share our work offline. 

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