Why Collaborative Curating Makes Sense for a Divided Political Era

In the wake of election of Donald Trump, artists and curators have been wrestling with the idea of how to respond creatively, through their practice, to the current charged political climate. Such is the challenge that curators Amanda Hunt and Eric Crosby have explicitly given themselves with their exhibition “20/20,” which opens this week at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. During what its press release calls “a tumultuous and deeply divided moment in our nation’s history,” “20/20” promises to make the case for art’s role in tackling the complexities of US history.

Moreover, it promises to do so in the form of a dialogue. Hunt, formerly an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, currently serves as director of public programs and education at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Crosby is the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Carnegie. Together, they worked to present a show that brings together the collections of the Studio Museum and the Carnegie, putting 20 works from each institution together to tell a larger story.

The show is subdivided into sections ranging from “The American Landscape” to “Forms of Resistance.” Its curatorial rumination on the cultural fabric of the US proceeds via the works of figures including Lyle Ashton Harris, Jasper Johns, Jon Kessler, Nari Ward, David Hammons, and James VanDerZee.

Recently artnet News sat down with both curators in Pittsburgh to discuss the exhibition, their collaboration, and what they believe the responsibility museums should have to their community.

How did this collaboration, this exhibition, come together? What was the genesis for this project?

Eric Crosby: We talk about the exhibition as offering a metaphoric view of America today through the dialogue created between the works on display. Some themes became very apparent, and cohered around specific artworks.

So the first work you see in the exhibition is the Carnegie Museum’s painting by Horace Pippin, Abe Lincoln’s First Book (1944), in which the artist depicts a portrait of Abe Lincoln at night as a young man, lying under his bear skin rug, in this very dark cabin, reaching out by candlelight for his first book.

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Chris Alexakisart