2020 Prospect New Orleans Triennial to Consider America’s ‘Unprecedented’ Political Moment

2020 Prospect New Orleans Triennial to Consider America’s ‘Unprecedented’ Political Moment

When the fifth edition of the Prospect New Orleans triennial opens to the public on October 24, the 2020 elections will be only 10 days away. That looming date was very much on the minds of the exhibition’s two curators, Naima J. Keith and Diana Nawi, when they began thinking about selecting the 51 artists and collectives that will participate in the sprawling city-wide triennial, which has become one of the country’s biggest art events.

Keith, who is vice president of education and public programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Nawi, an independent curator based in Los Angeles, said that, when they took on the project in 2018, just over a year into Trump’s presidency, they were only beginning to understand what the coming political era would look like.

“We were really thinking about this discourse around the unprecedented nature of this moment,” Nawi told ARTnews. “And this counter-discourse saying, ‘Well, we’ve always been here.’ For many people, this doesn’t come as a surprise. And so, how do you hold both of those things that are true? How do you hold them together at once and how do you think that through? What does that mean?”

The two arrived at the theme of “Yesterday we said tomorrow”—which plays on the name of 2010 album Yesterday You Said Tomorrow by jazz musician Christian Scott—as a way to think about the ways in which the past informs the present, particularly in a historically rich city like New Orleans, which experienced disastrous flooding during Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.

“I think New Orleans, with few exceptions, is one of the most historically grounded cities in the country, both in reality and in terms of self-conscious economy that revolves around the marketing of history,” Nawi said. “You see it everywhere. History lies so heavy here.”

How the past informs the present itself plays a major role in the artists selected for the exhibition, a diverse group that include some of country’s most closely watched artists, like Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Candice Lin, Kevin Beasley, Dawoud Bey, Karon Davis, EJ Hill, Simone Leigh, Glenn Ligon, Rodney McMillian, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Eric-Paul Riege, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, and Sky Hopinka.

Five artists who participated in the first iteration of Prospect, in 2008—Mark Bradford, Willie Birch, Dave McKenzie, Wangechi Mutu, and Nari Ward—are included, as well as four deceased artists—Laura Aguilar, Beverly Buchanan, George Dureau, and Carlos Villa. Having representatives of the past became a way for the curators to mount an exhibitions that is “broadly intergenerational and thinks about people at different places in their practice,” Nawi said.

“The beauty of Prospect is that there’s not this mandate that we have to find the undiscovered artists,” Keith added. “Because of that, we can involve such a diverse range of artists, including ones that are no longer with us to really think about how their work circulates in this current conversation or continues to resonate beyond when they were making work when they were alive.”

For the five returning artists, the curators didn’t require that they make work directly related to their original projects, though some might. Ward’s project, Diamond Gym: Action Network, was destroyed and all that remains are small elements from it, which might feature in his new work. Mutu’s work involved rebuilding a house that was destroyed by Katrina, but she will instead look to create bronze sculptures similar to the ones she did for the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Both curators agreed that Prospect was different from other biennials of its kind, in that the city itself is its guiding force. “These projects amplify the city,” Nawi said. “The city is not just backdrop. The city is in some ways the main protagonist of this project.”

The full artist list follows below.

Laura Aguilar (b. 1959, San Gabriel, CA; d. 2018, Los Angeles)

Katrina Andry (b. 1981, New Orleans; lives New Orleans)

Keni Anwar (b. 1993, New Orleans; lives New Orleans)

Felipe Baeza (b. 1987, Guanajuato, Mexico; lives Brooklyn, New York)

Kevin Beasley (b. 1985, Lynchburg, Virginia; lives in New York)

Ron Bechet (b. 1956, New Orleans; lives in New Orleans)

Paul Stephen Benjamin (b. 1966, Chicago; lives in Atlanta)

Dawoud Bey (b. 1953, New York; lives in Chicago)

Willie Birch (b. 1942, New Orleans; lives in New Orleans)

Dineo Seshee Bopape (b. 1981, Polokwane, South Africa; lives in Johannesburg)

Phoebe Boswell (b. 1982, Nairobi; lives in London)

Mark Bradford (b. 1961, Los Angeles; lives in Los Angeles)

Beverly Buchanan (b. 1940, North Carolina; d. 2015, Michigan)

Barbara Chase-Riboud (b. 1939, Philadelphia; lives Paris and Rome)

Cooking Sections (Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual; established in London, 2013; live in London)

Adriana Corral (b. 1983, El Paso; lives in Houston)

Jamal Cyrus (b. 1973, Houston; lives in Houston)

Karon Davis (b. 1977, Reno, NV; lives in Los Angeles)

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer (b. 1979, New York; lives in Los Angeles)

George Dureau (b. 1930, New Orleans; d. 2014, New Orleans)

ektor garcia (b. 1985 Red Bluff, California; lives in Mexico, New York, and elsewhere)

Sharon Hayes (b. 1970, Baltimore; lives in Philadelphia)

EJ Hill (b. 1985, Los Angeles; lives in Los Angeles)

Sky Hopinka (b. 1984, Ferndale, Washington; Bellingham, Washington)

Elliott Hundley (b. 1975, Greensboro, North Carolina; lives in Los Angeles)

Jennie C. Jones (b. 1968, Cincinnati; lives in Hudson, New York)

Josh Kun (b. 1971, Los Angeles; lives in Los Angeles)

Mimi Lauter (b. 1982, San Francisco; lives in Los Angeles)

Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago; lives in New York)

Tau Lewis (b. 1993, Toronto; lives in Toronto)

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, New York; lives in New York)

Candice Lin (b. 1979, Concord, Massachusetts; lives in Los Angeles)

Tiona Nekkia McClodden (b. 1981, Blytheville, Arkansas; lives in Philadelphia)

Dave McKenzie (b. 1977, Kingston, Jamaica; lives in New York)

Rodney McMillian (b. 1969, Columbia, South Carolina; lives in Los Angeles)

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi; lives in Nairobi and New York)

The Neighborhood Story Project (founded in 2004; based in New Orleans)

Hương Ngô (b. 1979 Hong Kong; lives in Chicago)

Jennifer Packer (b. 1984, Philadelphia; lives in New York)

Malcolm Peacock (b.1994, Raleigh, North Carolina; Lives in New Orleans)

Anastasia Pelias (b.1959, New Orleans; lives in New Orleans)

Naudline Pierre (b. 1989, Leomister, Massachusetts; lives in New York)

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (b. 1985, East Palo Alto, California; lives in New York)

Eric-Paul Riege (b. 1994, Gallup, New Mexico; lives in Gallup, New Mexico)

Jamilah Sabur (b. 1987, St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica; lives in Miami)

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (b. 1972, San Juan, Puerto Rico; lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Welmon Sharlhorne (b. 1952, Houma, Louisiana; lives in New Orleans)

Kiki Smith (b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany; lives in New York)

Carlos Villa (b. 1936, San Francisco; d. 2013, San Francisco)

Nari Ward (b. 1963, Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica; lives in New York)

Cosmo Whyte (b. 1982, St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica; lives in Atlanta)

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