Open invitation to host the postponed Phillip Guston retrospective
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Kaywin Feldman, Director, National Gallery of Art
Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern
Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gary Tinterow, Director, The Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
We are saddened by your recent decision to delay Philip Guston’s retrospective.
We do understand how troubling and how uncomfortable it might be for the citizens of cosmopolitan cities like those which you serve to risk exposure to the artist’s signature cosmic-cartoon renderings of KKK hoods.
Thankfully, as an experimental art and culture space based in a city and state where the KKK is not only still active but also a thinly-veiled and only semi-covert political force, where prison labor is still openly used for grounds maintenance at our flagship state university, and where many of our citizens still operate largely within a polite but pervasive sense of veiled racial threat, we are confident that we may be in a unique position to help you.
Given those realities which we live with in this enduring plantation city, we have absolutely no concern that “unclear” interpretation of Guston’s masterful work will cause harm. Indeed, we are working quite hard here to protect all forms of art and experimentation against totalitarian encroachment and the assault on new forms of thought including abstraction and taboo.
Rather than being concerned that Guston’s work might somehow be wrongly allied with “plantation consciousness,” (as we call it) we see him as part of the project of dismantling it. Indeed Guston’s work, and its associative mapping of mid-siècle white consciousness (in all its permeability and contradiction) may even reinvigorate and sanctify that most unique responsibility with which Art has historically been tasked – to hold and protect space for forms of experimentation: in which various codes for policing the sacred and profane are held at bay, in which doctrinaire critical notions of culturally correct interpretation are always taken with salt grains, and in which programmatic socio-political agendas are contra-indicated.
In this manner, new forms, ideas, and conversations – those encounters which Gilles Deleuze proclaimed were more real and more important than culture– may emerge.
In sum, this is simply a perfect fit for our space and our city.
To this end, we humbly offer our burgeoning institution as an alternative venue to host the retrospective without delay. Admittedly, it’s a financial stretch for us, but perhaps with your various endowments, something mutually beneficial could be arranged. Please respond at your soonest expedition.
With highest regard,
Mat Keel and Liz Lessner
Yes We Cannibal