Using assemblage artist Edward Kienholz’s harrowing 1970 lynching tableau Five Car Stud as a point of departure, Lawrence Weschler explores some of the ways in which race has served as the radioactive core of American history, continually warping the potential for ordinary class-based politics and accounting for all manner of perverse American exceptionalisms--the subject of Weschler's current work-in-progress. More recently, for example with the controversy surrounding the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the question of the degree to which white artists like Kienholz or Dana Schutz even have standing to address that history has become similarly fraught. Which leaves us all where, exactly?
Lawrence Weschler, a graduate of Cowell College at UC Santa Cruz (1974), was for twenty years a staff writer at The New Yorker (1981-2001), where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies, and then for thirteen years (2001-2014) the director, now emeritus, of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. He has been a regular contributor, among others, to the New York Times magazine, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and The Believer—and is the author of coming on twenty books, including Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (a life of artist Robert Irwin); True to Life (on David Hockney); Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (on the Museum of Jurassic Technology); Vermeer in Bosnia; Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences; and now, And How Are You, Doctor Sacks? (a biographical memoir of his thirty-five-year friendship with the neurologist Oliver Sacks). For more, visit: www.lawrenceweschler.com.
Image: The PT Barnum of the Mind, pencil drawing by Riva Lehrer. Courtesy the artist.