19 December 2022

19 December 2022

Over the last several years, we have seen statues commemorating formerly venerated, now reviled, figures destroyed or removed from view, while the number of those honoring neglected (primarily Black and female figures) has increased. Must artists creating public monuments today think about their future as well as their significance to contemporary culture? Does advocacy have an aesthetic? How do the political beliefs of the commissioners and the artists intersect with their personal histories? Here are two artists whose work speaks volumes to these questions.

About Hank Willis Thomas

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the country and abroad, including the International Center of Photography, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Musée du quai Branly, and the Witte de Witte Center for Contemporary Art. He is a cofounder of For Freedoms, now the largest community of citizen artists in America engaged in forging new paths to social justice “by any medium necessary.” In 2019, Unity, a public sculpture commissioned by New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, took up its permanent home in downtown Brooklyn. This January, on Boston Common, Thomas will unveil “The Embrace,” a monumental bronze he created as a permanent memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King for the city of Boston, The Boston Foundation, and Embrace Boston. Thomas is the recipient of fellowships from the Gordon Parks Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Pace Gallery, Los Angeles; Ben Brown Fine Arts, London; Goodman Gallery, South Africa; and Marauni Mercier, Belgium.

About Dara Friedman

Dara Friedman is a German born artist and filmmaker working in Miami. Reducing the materials of her chosen medium to its essentials, her films, which often portray ritual actions and sounds, are both sensual and serene. Last summer, she exhibited a new work, The Tyger’s Tale, in San Cremona, Italy, and in 2017, the Perez Art Museum in Miami staged a mid-career survey, “Dara Friedman: Perfect Stranger.” Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the French National Collection and the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. This year she went into production with ecologist Josh Smith on: River Hill, Silo City, University of Buffalo on a monumental garden and labyrinth transforming a quarter acre of post-industrial turf along the Buffalo River with hardy pollinators that will open to the public next spring. Among Friedman’s honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rome Prize, and residencies at the Hammer Museum and at Everglades National Park.

About Linda Yablonsky

Linda Yablonsky is a renowned critic and arts journalist based in New York. Over the last thirty years her byline has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and T Magazine, Artforum, W Magazine, Art News, Bloomberg, and many more. In 2002 she helped to pioneer the streaming arts radio channel, WPS1 for MoMA PS1. She also founded and directed NightLight Readings (1991-1999), a monthly writers-in-performance series held at The Drawing Center and other art spaces in New York, and from 2002-2004 was literature curator for The Kitchen. Currently, she contributes the monthly column, New York Insider, to The Art Newspaper and is writing a major biography of the artist Jeff Koons.