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Contemporary Art

Art World Outliers with Lynne Cooke

One of the most talked about exhibitions this year, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, closes next week at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (13 May), after which it will travel to the High Museum in Atlanta and then to LACMA.   

This week's guest is Lynne Cooke, the senior curator of special projects at the NGA who spent five years researching the exhibition. Talking to our host Charlotte Burns, Cooke says much of the art on show was made by people on the peripheries, often in marginalized positions because of their gender, race, class or age. “A great deal was made by African-American artists. Their work is simply not entered into the circuits and orbits of the contemporary art world for lack of opportunity, for lack of education, for lack of money. As I said: class, race.”    

The exhibition comprises around 270 works by more than 80 artists and focuses on periods of social, political, economic and cultural upheaval in the United States, during which times the boundaries between the avant-garde and the outliers—self-taught, marginalized, Outsider artists—became more porous.    One of the most thoughtful curators working today, Cooke talks to us about her experience in preparing for the show, which “called into question a whole set of ideas about creativity and the basis on which innovation and originality and exploration take place”.

“In Other Words” is a presentation of AAP and Sotheby’s, produced by Audiation.fm.

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"For me, it’s important to start with question which are live, that are of the present for us now, and to look backwards to see what past precedent proposes, or to see how those questions were explored under somewhat different circumstances in a different historical moment because they can be immensely informative."
Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington

From the Podcast...

“I want to borrow a phrase from Suzanne Hudson, who is a critic and art historian who’s written on this. When she was thinking about the role of curators, she used the phrase: ‘the dispensation of privilege’.”

“A great deal of this work was made by African-American artists. And their work is simply not entered into the circuits and orbits of the contemporary art world for lack of opportunity, for lack of education, for lack of money. As I said, class, race.”

“It called into question a whole set of ideas about creativity and the basis on which innovation and originality and exploration take place.”

More on Lynne Cooke

Lynne Cooke joined the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in August 2014 as senior curator of special projects in Modern art. Cooke was previously appointed the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Gallery’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Casva) from 2012 to 2014.

Cooke has received many awards and is widely published. In 2013 she wrote essays for the exhibition catalogues Matt Mullican: Subject Element Sign Frame World (Skira/Rizzoli, New York, 2013) and Orthodoxies Undermined, Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013). She has also authored or written for other exhibition catalogues about the work of such artists as Alighiero Boetti, James Castle, James Coleman, Willem de Kooning, Ann Hamilton, William Kentridge, Agnes Martin, and Richard Serra.

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