At the Whitney, a protest against Dana Schutz' painting of Emmett Till: "She has nothing to say to the Black community about Black trauma." pic.twitter.com/C6x1JcbwRa
— Scott W. H. Young (@hei_scott) March 17, 2017
A white artist’s depiction of Emmett Till’s mutilated corpse in an open casket has sparked controversy at this year’s Whitney Biennial. The biennale art exhibition, which has drawn criticism in the past for its lack of diversity, despite featuring new and emerging artists, hoped to reinvent itself this year with a new, inclusive mission.
But despite The Whitney’s efforts, Open Casket (2016) by Dana Schutz serves as a reminder that there is still more to be done.
Earlier this week, black artists voiced their opposition by attending The Biennial and forming a blockade around the painting. Artist Parker Bright (pictured above) features in a now viral photo of the protest. As news of Open Casket (2016) spread, more African American artists are speaking out.
In an open letter published to Black Contemporary Art, artist Hannah Black asked Biennial curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks to remove the painting and that it be destroyed.
“The painting should not be acceptable to anyone who cares or pretends to care about Black people,” Black writes, “because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun, though the practice has been normalized for a long time.”
Schutz defended her work in a statement to The Guardian, and The Whitney also defended their decision keep Schutz’s work up — without directly addressing any criticism.
Lead Image Credit: via Instagram.