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Black administrative staff and their allies at the museum have also sent a private statement and a list of demands to CAMSTL’s board of directors.The exhibition, slated to end on December 31, currently remains in its original state; museum director Lisa Melandri said she expects to make an institutional decision on how to move forward with all involved voices considered.Update 9/23, am: Kelley Walker’s gallery, Paula Cooper, released a statement responding to the reaction to the artist’s work at CAMSTL.“The anger of the black community and its challenge to systemic forms of racism, in St.Louis and elsewhere in the US, is real,” it reads in part.According to artists in attendance, including Davis, Walker dismissed inquiries about whom he considers his audience and why he is fixed on images of the black body and of racial injustice.“[Walker] was able to talk about the technical aspects of the work,” artist Kahlil Irving told Hyperallergic.“Unfortunately, he dropped everything when it came to why he made them and what the work means.Melandri told Hyperallergic that internal conversations did occur about whether some images could be offensive particularly when shown in St.Louis, which is why the museum did plan, from the beginning, to address such concerns in public forums.
Those boycotting the museum, however, will not be satisfied with just talk.“I’m tired of doing panels, discussions, and talks with white people who don’t care about us so they can have the whole world see us go through pain and get more people into the museum,” Davis told Hyperallergic. What tangible, real steps, will they do to right this?
The former series consists of photographs from the 1963 Birmingham movement printed on canvases that Walker covered with melted white, milk, and dark chocolate; the latter series appropriates covers of “Kelley goes all over the world to exhibit, but this city is a different city,” artist Damon Davis, who called for the boycott, told Hyperallergic. For the institution to bring something like that here, now — when there are activists dying, when they’re being locked in prison, when we wake up and there’s another black man dead on camera for the world to see — is blatantly irresponsible and offensive.
WAt the artist talk on September 17, visitors attempted to better understand the imagery but left believing that neither Walker nor curator Jeffrey Uslip could satisfactorily explain what they meant.
”For Irving, any words must be met with action that changes the museum’s approach to curation, installation, and public presentation now and in the future.“If they support this work, they support white supremacy and white men being able to do whatever they want without question,” he said.
“Let’s use common sense and address the systematic and male dominant perspective.