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Curator's Note:

Tumultuous, expansive, inspirational - the past 10 years have had their ups and downs. How have contemporary artists reacted to the news of the day?


Art's relationship to its time is inherently complex. No matter what the particular subject at hand - be it social upheaval, the environment, mass media, or identity - today's art is layered with influences, sources and ideas. Loathe to be pinned down, contemporary artists serve no master, religion or propaganda, as they most often did in past centuries. Positioning themselves on the very edge of expression, the artists presented here pose questions and create new forms that open up ways of thinking and viewing the world.

--Wesley Miller, Associate Curator, Art21

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"America is ingenious at avoidance. It avoids the most central realities that constitute who we are as a nation…Race is a universe of meaning that encompasses a whole lot of different realities at the same time." -Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Professor, University of Pennsylvania, Tavis Smiley: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson (2007)

Are we post-racial? This question emerged in the past decade and was played out in the fields of entertainment, politics, and visual arts alike. In this video, artist Kerry James Marshall reflects on an essay by Langston Hughes—The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain—and asks what the difference is between wanting to be a called a black artist and wanting to be called an artist.

Kerry James Marshall is featured in the Season 1 (2001) episode of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Identity.

Video credits | Producer: Wesley Miller and Nick Ravich. Camera & Sound: Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Kerry James Marshall. Thanks: Jack Shainman Gallery. © Art21, Inc. 2008.

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