Art and Controversy


Moderated by Dan Bischoff, Art Critic, The Star Ledger

October 2, 2014  7 pm

Seton Hall University

A panel discussion, Art and Controversy, with moderator Dan Bischoff, Art Critic for the Star Ledger, will be presented on October 2 at Seton Hall University. Joining the panel are Emma Wilcox and Evonne Davis of Gallery Aferro, artist Jesse Krimes, and Lydia Matthews, Professor of Visual Culture at Parsons.

Dan Bischoff will initiate the panel with a Powerpoint overview of controversies in the recent past beginning with “Sensation” in 1999. Coming in the wake of the Culture Wars of the 1980s, “Sensation”—an exhibit of advertising tycoon Charles Saatchi’s personal art collection—seemed to confirm artists’ roles as producers of media-borne controversy. Each edition, in London first and then Brooklyn, caused a media furor in 1999. Also included in the overview are the numerous controversies leading to the censorship of exhibiting art using images of the attacks on 9/11, raising the idea that certain subjects are too “controversial” for art and artists to undertake.

Emma Wilcox and Evonne Davis, co-founders/owners of Gallery Aferro in Gallery in downtown Newark, will discuss their decision to show David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in the Belly” video after members of Congress protested its inclusion in “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, leading to its censorship. Wojnarowicz had been the first artist to fight against the Culture Wars censorship of the 1980s with his successful suit of fundamentalist Rev. Don Wildmon. The defiance of some art institutions over “Fire in the Belly” was among the first post-Iraq War censorship battles to go the other way in the press.

Lydia Matthews, a curator/educational advisor for numerous institutions ranging from small artist-run spaces to artist residencies to major museums, and Professor of Visual Culture at Parsons, will address how artists, artisans and designers foster democratic debates and intimate community interactions in the public sphere. Since her work with master craftspeople/students in China as a 2001 Spencer Foundation Fellow, she has published widely and lectured internationally on craft’s evolving role in contemporary culture, presenting radical models of marketplace emerging at the intersection of design, art and grassroots craft practice.

Finally, Jesse Krimes, whose mural done on prison sheets, “Apokaluptein 16389067,” is at the Zimmerli Museum through Dec. 14, will talk about art’s deliberate use of controversy in profoundly different times. Krimes, recently released from federal prison after serving seven years for a nonviolent drug crime, will describe how and why he made the huge work, secretly, during his time in prison. His work exemplifies art working through controversy in an entirely new way, using the artist himself as symbol.

This panel discussion is to further engage artists and audiences alike to consider all aspects of making and presenting art in a public forum and the conflict that sometimes arise between intent and perception. Seton Hall University is located on South Orange Avenue, South Orange, New Jersey.

The program is presented by the Lennie Pierro Memorial Arts Foundation, made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex county division of Cultural and Historic Affairs through a grant from the NJSCA and the Undergraduate Program in Art History and the MA Program in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University


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