artworldKen Johnson Affair
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Ken Johnson Affair Rolls On: Resolution or Turning of the Screw?


The Ken Johnson Affair, commented upon in depth by artcritical.com contributors in our roundtable discussions last month, rumbles along.  In a panel discussion to take place Wednesday, January 30 at Kunsthalle Galapagos at 16 Main Street in Dumbo, as part of that institution’s This Red Door program, the reviews that caused the rumpus come in for yet further metacritical scrutiny.

Joan Waltemath, artcritical contributing editor, is billed as one of three moderators. (Will the moderators need a moderator, one wonders?)  Waltemath was invited, she tells us, after fellow moderators Christopher Stackhouse and Jomar Statkun read her own intervention in the artcritical debate.  Waltemath concluded her remarks by asking: “If Johnson had erred on the side of sensitivity, could this much needed discussion have emerged?    Let us make the most of it, it is a rare moment when the issues are on the table and there is something at stake.”

The evening is billed as “Critical Inversions – Artist to Critic, and the Publics in Between,” and Johnson is joined at the podium by artists Lisa Corinne

Lisa Corinne Davis

Lisa Corinne Davis

Davis and Anoka Faruqee, who was one of the authors of the “open letter” first challenging the New York Times critic for his pointed remarks on race and gender.  The panel announcement also hints at “possible special guests.”

Audience looking for resolution of this odd affair may not actually find it this evening, however, if the blurb on the announcement is any indication: “This discussion will pursue a generative conversation about cultural production, societal value, and how critical faculty figures into the assessment of agency between artifacts deemed art and those potential audiences that might receive said objects, experiences, or material of whatever type as art.”   “Artifacts deemed art” sounds heavy, and the statement forgets to mention gender or race!

But the presence of Lisa Corrine Davis – a woman of color, a veteran educator and a fabulous painter to boot – and the moderating influence of our own Joan Waltemath, encourages us to believe that, notwithstanding the conversation getting anywhere, civility will prevail.


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