Thursday, January 7, 2016

Viewing Racism At the Art Institute

Untitled by Robert Gober
Untitled by Robert Gober   a closeup                        
The good news is that Chicago is no longer the most segregated large city in America. According to the January 4th Chicago Tribune, it is now only the 3rd most segregated large city -behind Milwaukee and New York.

Progress is being made here albeit at a snail's pace.

Since the Art Institute in Chicago was expanded, they've had room for even more works of art and so the collection shown is even more impressive than it was. It's worth a visit even more than before. While their Impressionist collection is outstanding, sometimes it's good to branch out and see something else.

We saw the above painting which is located in the contemporary wing of the museum and is called "Untitled." It was painted by Robert Gober born in 1954. He says that "...the painful imagery was meant as a reminder of fact - the ugly and unforgettable reality of United States history." It's a new concept - racism and lynchings as wallpaper as white America sleeps comfortably for the most part ignoring it. His painting is saying that racism in America is like wallpaper- ubiquitous and therefore, something we are numb to and tend to ignore.

The year 2015 was a ghastly one for police over-reaction against African-Americans. This was true not only in Chicago, but also in many other American cities. Since the police are part of American society, we have probably all been guilty of the same types of over-reactions. Unfortunately, the police have guns and the opportunity for their over-reactions to be deadly. While the police especially need to be trained to be aware of their racist feelings so that they can know how to stop acting on those feelings in the line of duty, most of white America would do well to have that training. We have to stop over-reacting. I hope that 2016 is a year in which we begin to address the racism that is embedded in our society as we take an honest look at our own reactions.

A good place to start is at the Art Institute. Go to the contemporary wing to see "Untitled" by Robert Gober. A picture is worth a thousand words and a good place to start this journey.

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