Summary of “Race and Pop Culture: A Roundtable Conversation”

Yes, the religious right was attacking the NEA and major art institutions, but the white liberal critical establishment was also attacking works by people of color and dismissing it as “Identity politics.” There is the game-changing Whitney Biennial in 1992 that featured works by predominantly people of color that was a critique of the art institution itself and made critics practically apoplectic.
When it comes to critiquing POC-fronted works, how do you see the conversation playing out differently among white critics and critics of color? Does it ever feel like there are separate conversations happening? Relatedly, do you ever feel like it’s not “Your place” to critique a work? And do you think that applies to other critics?
Which on one hand, I do think some critics of color who are new to the game do not know how to balance talking about aesthetics, the history of the medium, and the political dimension of a work.
It’s been depressing to me the degree to which the conversation about POC creators has focused on getting to make mainstream work and be hired by large media companies but so much less on elevating work made outside the system.
EAJ: It’s funny how many critics have coded work by women and people of color as personal or “Autobiographical,” whereas work by white men is somehow transcendent of that.
As much as we can’t separate those the art and the artist, does it ever feel like it simplifies the conversation around art, where a “Good person” translates to a “Good work” and a bad person therefore creates “Bad work.” For example, after the Junot Díaz controversy, in which he was accused of sexual misconduct, there was a lot of criticism of his previous work – was some of it valid, and did some of it conflate him with his work?
EAJ: There is a conflation happening around personhood and the work itself that’s now part of “Branding.” You definitely see some people trying to use that as cover to inoculate themselves from criticism.
Let’s talk about how art and politics intersect in 2018, when it comes to the work itself.

The orginal article.