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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

“The stigma attached to having been in jail for a woman is a very threatening one because of the idea of how dare her not be a good wife and mother. She goes to jail because she is not able to play her traditional role as a woman.” - Faith Ringgold

Trailblazing American artist, activist and author Faith Ringgold died yesterday at 93. Born in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, she is perhaps better known for spearheading the revival of the African American story quilt (there's a beautiful one at the Barbican right now) in the late 1970s. Prior to that, she painted bold and unapologetic pictures that explored the themes of race and gender in America.

I saw this painting, Ringgold's last large-scale oil on canvas, at the Brooklyn Museum exactly a year, a month and day ago. What makes it truly unique is that it was commissioned to be displayed at Rikers Island women's prison facility, where I believed it remained until 2022. To empower the inmates to rebuild their lives after being released, Ringgold painted women engaging in typically male-dominated professions such as NBA stars, cops, bus drivers and doctors. I read she took inspiration from actual conversations had with the inmates about their aspirations, which makes it all the more poignant.

Faith Ringgold

For The Women’s House, 1971

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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

"When you look at my works, you don't remember an object. There remains an experience, a passage." - Richard Serra

Serra revolutionized sculpture forging solidly sinuous site-specific monumental structures, using industrial materials such as steel and lead. His work, scattered and celebrated globally, challenged and altered not just our perception of space and time, but also the way we interact with sculpture now he had made it accessible to us by doing away with pedestals. Importantly, his work could be touched and thus experienced viscerally.

My first encounter with Serra at MOMA some 20 years ago elicited a strong emotional response, a mix of unbridled enthusiasm and comfortable disorientation. The same thing happened again at the Guggenheim in Bilbao many years later. It is impossible not to gravitate towards Serra's towering sculptures, there is something profoundly intimidating yet alluring about their shape, texture and scale. When did rust suddenly become so attractive? Once inside them, I felt alone but also part of something, and I found myself lost in the purest sense, never wanting to be found, which for me is as close to the definition of engagement as it gets.

Installation view of the exhibition "Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years" at MOMA, 2007

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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

This year I saw a lot of beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking, memorable, urgent and necessary art. This list is in chronological order rather than based on preference because I enjoyed all of these art shows for very different reasons.

  1. Sam Szafran "Obsessions d'un peintre" - Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris

  2. Wangechi Mutu "Intertwined" - New Museum, New York City

  3. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye "Fly in league with the night" - Tate Britain

  4. Martin Wong "Malicious Mischief" - Camden Arts Centre

  5. Anselm Kiefer "Finnegans Wake" - White Cube, London

  6. Felice Casorati "Il concerto della pitttura" - Fondazione Magnani Rocca

  7. Ragnar Kjartansson "Epic Waste of Love and Understanding" - Louisiana Museum

  8. Philip Guston - Tate Modern

Here's to plenty more salvific art in 2024. As always, it will keep me and many of you afloat in this deep, dark sea of uncertainty and anxiety.

“Végétation dans l’Atelier”, 1980

© Sam Szafran

"Before Punk Came Funk", 2010

© Wangechi Mutu

"Lay It Down (On The Edge Of Beauty)", 2018

© Thomas J Price

"A Passion Like No Other", 2012 

© Lynette Yiadom-Boakye 

"The Love Addict", 2019

© Soheila Sokhanvari

"Chinese Laundry", 1984

© Martin Wong Foundation

"Ritratto di Silvana Cenni", 1922

© Felice Casorati

"Encyclopedia of Gestures (Jeu du Monde)", 2023

© Firelei Baez

"Dial", 1956

© The Estate of Philip Guston

"Coping", 2008

© Nicole Eisenman

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