Art in the Family
On Tuesday February 17, 2009, a drawing by Charles White (Move On Up
a Little Higher, 1961) and a painting by Al Loving (Cube 27, 1970) were sold
by Swann Galleries in New York. Swann is known for its auctions of art by
African Americans as well as ephemera, documents, and material culture
relating to black life. Prices were solid, only beginning to show the effects
of the current economic downturn.
For me these two pieces signified something somewhat outside the strict
register of monetary gain or notable historical fact. These were works of art
made by my friends’ parents, people I grew up with, hung out with, learned
about life with. They signal the parameters of the community in which I was
born, raised, and became an intellectual. In my world, art is not only part
of history—even a living history—it is part of and makes community, it is
part of and makes family.
What I want to think about here is how art objects, and the activities
around their making and display—in exhibitions, homes, studios—as well
as their materiality and life, are integral to forming relationships, connec-
tions, and kinship among sometimes diverse constituencies. How is art a
connective force, a glue between people, creating the sense of community
whole but also of family and affiliation? Indeed how does the circulation
of art forms in public and private arenas create dialogues and sites of col-
lectivity, personal and communal meaning, and how are these formations
part of how we craft individual and larger social and political involvements?
How do objects coalesce a public, create a life for artists and audiences and a
circle of friendships from the particular to the collective? In what ways does
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