Obscured Vision: Contexts, Publics, and Artists of Color

In recent years, public engagement with artwork produced by artists of color is often limited in depth and scope. These artists’ work is shown without sufficient contextualization of the histories of iconographies used, stories of communities’ work references, and other components that imbue meaning to art. Histories that are hidden or obfuscated in this manner may lead to exploitation, misinterpretation, and misrepresentation. This panel explores how we may reposition public engagement with art produced by persons of color as a gateway to learning and understanding across difference. We ask: With whom does the responsibility to make work “palatable” rest? If viewers walk out of an exhibition without meaningfully engaging with the work, does this reflect on the artists, the viewer, the curator or must we look elsewhere? And more specifically, in this moment can we afford to have people looking at work like Sanford Biggers’ BAM series, Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, Dread Scott’s A Man Was Lynched without making the connections to historical and contemporary issues of racialized violence, capitalist hegemony, violence and so on?

This panel is led by Niama Safia Sandy, and features guests including Amina Cooper, Deirdre Darden, Charles Jean-Pierre and Risikat Okedeyi.

Niama Safia Sandy is a curator, anthropologist and writer whose work considers the human story through the lenses of culture, class, migration, and race. Her most recent curatorial oeuvre was Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures (2016), a group exhibition presented at RUSH Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s Corridor Gallery.




Niama Safia Sandy

Niama Safia Sandy

Curator; Cultural Anthropologist; Essayist

New York City, USA