Life is Unfair…But We Have Yet to Determine How Unfair It Really Is

by Art Fag City on November 23, 2005 Events

It’s a surprise to no one that comparisons between the Studio Museum’s latest survey show of emerging Black artists Frequency and it’s predecessor Freestyle started immediately. There has been some effort on the part of the museum to draw distinctions between the two shows, and it is unclear if these efforts are an attempt to discourage comparison. It is understandable that the museum might wish to do so since the inevitable contrasting between these two shows is a little like measuring the height of an 8 year old and a 4 year old, and hoping that the 4 year old will be just as tall. Given the fact that we have spent the last four years watching the careers of Freestyle artists grow, and no years of watching the 2005 crop of new artists, the results of such a comparison are predictable. Among the better known Freestyle veterans are Julie Mehretu who was recently award the MacArthur Fellowship, (the genius fellowship), Eric Wesley, whose work Kicking Ass was featured prominently in the Freestyle press release, and had a solo show at Metro Pictures before moving on to I-20 Gallery, and Laylah Ali, whose art was recently featured on Art:21. It is simply too soon for Frequency to compete with heavy weight like this. One hopes that these things will be taken into consideration by critics and the like but things don’t look promising thus far. Speaking more broadly on the problematics around Frequency one artist said to me anonymously in conversation the other day “I feel like what it may amount to (which was a fear that I had all along), is that this amounts to an extended ‘waitlist’ for black artists a few years younger than the Freestyle artists. It seems like although the ages range, most of the artists were just a little to young to be in Freestyle…but what do I know?” And what can I say? I hope this artist is off the mark, but we have yet to see the extent to which the show will be able to challenge these questions.

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