Charlene K. Lau
What is white, as a shade, a concept, an identity? Too often, binary ideas cloud deeper investigations into the historical construction of whiteness as a race. In this group exhibition, curators Lillian O’Brien Davis and John G. Hampton explored connections between the political myth of whiteness that developed alongside the dispossession of Black and Indigenous people and the aesthetic and philosophical significance of white in art. Tightly organized yet covering a broad swath of time, “Conceptions of White” began fittingly with Robert Morris’s white-latex-on-aluminum Portal, 1964, which served as a literal and figurative entrance to the gallery. The viewer could choose to walk through this somewhat narrow “doorway”—which had plenty of space on either side—or move around it. Inside, works ranged from a plaster replica of the Apollo Belvedere, ca. 120–140 CE, a marble Roman sculpture long thought to copy a lost Greek original in bronze; to Model of the Greek Slave, 1843, by American Neoclassical sculptor Hiram Powers; to work by contemporary artists such as Fred Wilson and Howardena Pindell; as well as new commissions for the exhibition.
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