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Charles Gaines and Fred Moten
Revisiting The Theater of Refusal (1993)
May 12, 2016
LAXART is pleased to present a public program revisiting The Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism, the influential exhibition curated by the artist Charles Gaines—this program at LAXART features a reading by poet and scholar Fred Moten followed by a dialogue between Gaines and Moten. Theater of Refusal debuted at the University of California Irvine Fine Arts Gallery in April of 1993, and traveled to the UC Davis and UC Riverside art galleries, concluding in February of 1994. The exhibition included work by artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Renée Green, David Hammons, Ben Patterson, Adrian Piper, Sandra Rowe, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Pat Ward Williams, and Fred Wilson. In addition to the artists’ work presented in the gallery, Gaines assembled didactic wall displays and a reading room that featured published art criticism on each of the eleven exhibiting artists. By tracing the critical reception of each artist within the exhibition, Gaines encouraged reflection on the process of reception itself, while also emphasizing the exhibition context as an active site for the formation and interpretation of meaning and subjectivity. The exhibition’s full title suggests that the analytic work of considering (and reconsidering) an artist’s reception must also recognize how criticism is performed and embodied, as well as specifically recognize to what extent criticism has elided, foreclosed, or refused to engage in such a process of consideration and self-inquiry when reflecting on work by black artists.
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