The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

September 15, 2009

Damond Howard and Still America’s Greatest Problem

There are only two weekends left to see Damond Howard’s works in progress at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art Loft, and I suggest you do not let this opportunity pass you by. 

Bonnie, Kristine Hartvigsen and I went out to see this small showing and meet Damond along with his wife and daughter last Sunday afternoon, and we were taken by the intimacy of the event.  Damond receives his guest in the loft space he inhabits at 701 on weekends — the artist teaches during the week at Claflin University in Orangeburg, so he’s only in this studio space for the weekends of his six-week-long residency.  

The walls of the space are lined with  large black and white images depicting the artist himself balanced against  traditionally racist images in a similar pose.  There’s a minstrel and a dandy and, most disturbing of all, a gorilla — all juxtaposed against the depiction of a black man exhibiting almost the same posture.  If the presentation of the images alone is not enough to bring about the kind of discomfort that makes white folks feel like blushing and stuttering a little, the eyes of the subjects definitely do the trick.  While in one pair the eyes of the man seem to capture those of the caricature — accusatory, shocked, pissed — in the next pair, the eyes of the parody seem to assess the image of the man — more accusation? respect? also pissed?  It is the projected internal exchange between the subjects that makes the viewer realize an intimacy not common in contemporary art.

Stop by the studio some time before the 24th of the month and take a look at what Professor Howard has been up to.  And ask him if he’s thought anymore about Joe Wilson’s outburst — we had a nice conversation about it, but the artist kept his grace and objectivity far better than I am able to.  Particularly given that the name of this exhibition is, “Still America’s Greatest Problem.” 

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