Aljazeera: Jayawardane, Abstracting the savaged body of Emmett Till, 2017


Image credit: Parker Bright, an African American artist, is protesting against the painting by partially blocking it from view [Michael Bilsborough]

The photographs depict a ‘realism’ or an ‘indexicality’ that abstraction in the painting distorts, diluting the power of witness, writes Jayawardane [AP]

Abstracting the savaged body of Emmett Till

by M Neelika Jayawardane



“More than 60 years after Emmett Till’s murder, debates about whether there are more (or less) ethical ways in which we can approach the brutality done to his body continue.

Most recently, the furore is about a contemporary abstract painting – titled “Open Casket” – of Emmett Till, included in the Whitney Biennale in New York City. Many have been outraged by Whitney Biennale curators Mia Locks and Christopher Y Lew’s decision to – as they saw it – make a spectacle of Till’s death, only this time, in a context devoid of the respectful architectural, religious, psychological, and emotional frameworks required for mourning.

To hang his suffering on a white wall seemed tantamount to instrumentalising a brutalised black body in order to buy art critic approval, to add intellectual and political weight to the Whitney Biennale, and generally create buzz.”

Source: Aljazeera