Last week was an ending for all sorts of examinations of the advertising world. Of course, I’m referencing Mad Men, one of my favorite shows of the last 8 years (I’ve seen every episode). But in other examinations of whiteness and advertising, Hank Willis Thomas’s show Un-Branded: A Century of White Women, at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York also ended. This is but one of many in Thomas’s series that looks at advertising with a critical eye. In this series, white women were the overall subject with one ad featured for each year between 1915 and 2015. Several questions were left unanswered without the help of writing on the wall. This was surely a show left up to the viewer’s interpretation.
There were definitely some recognizable ads, and others…not so much. This one, titled The Taming of the Shrewd by Thomas, surely puts an interesting play on the Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. (Also see: my current work life. All these Petruchios think I’m Kate!).
The Taming of the Shrewd
But of course as an 80’s baby, my favorite Kate and Petruchio ever are Kat and Patrick of Padua High played by Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger.
10 Things I Hate About You, Source: Pretty52.com
Sigh so in Mad Men, Shakespeare, and advertising white women stay being played. If you want to see the lives of the other I suggest you look for Unbranded when it shows up in another showing or parts play out in an exhibit. Or you know, read a book- but not Shakespeare, because his Moors are male.
The New Whitney Museum is open, and amaaaaaaaazing (Oprah voice emphasis) ! I swore I wouldn’t visit for the first month, because- crowds, ugggh. But, I broke that promise to myself and took a bit out of an afternoon to wander through the exhibit America is Hard to See. The premise of viewing America through the Whitney’s permanent collection seemed daunting and migraine inducing at first. I entered all like “Error: CANNOT COMPUTE.” But as I strolled through the floors, the myriad of connections that make up the nation began to seem natural.
Of course it didn’t take me long to find the first piece I wanted to pose with. Richmond Barthes’ “African Dancer” was near the start of the exhibit and was poise and grace and all that jazz in plaster sculpture form. According to the didactic this piece was most likely inspired by this bomb Langston Hughes poem, “Danse Africaine.”
The low beating of the tom-toms, The slow beating of the tom-toms, Low…slow Slow…low— Stirs your blood. Dance! A night-veiled girl Whirls softly into a Circle of light. Whirls softly…slowly, Like a wisp of smoke around the fire— And the tom-toms beat, And the tom-toms beat, And the low beating of the tom-toms Stirs your blood.
All of this got me to thinking about other images of dance that have stuck with me through the years.
In sculpture there’s another famous tiny dancer by Degas. He’s also known for his paintings of dancers by color.
In contemporary art we can recall the Ernie Barnes of Good Times fame. Those Keith Haring figures seem to get down as well.
Everything we learned about turtles as kids completely did not jive with the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles. Somehow these notoriously slow creatures morphed into fierce fighters under the mentorship of a rat.
Then they ended up in an environmental art piece at New Museum’s 2015 Triennial. Timeless Alex (2015) by Eduardo Navarros looks at life from a turtle’s point of view, which is the antithesis to the crazy fast digital life we lead.
Maybe there’s a lesson for all of us in this. Like find the piece within, go in on some pizza, and you too can take on Shredder!
The New Museum’s Triennial is on view through May 24th.