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The Art Angle Podcast: Writer Roxane Gay on what art can teach us about trauma and healing

By on September 24, 2021 0

Welcome to Art Angle, an Artnet News podcast that explores where the art world meets the real world, telling every week’s greatest story on earth. Join us each week for an in-depth look at what matters most about museums, the art market and more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators and others. leading experts in the field.

Today, for the 100th episode (!) Of Art Angle, we are delighted to welcome critically acclaimed author, teacher and social commentator Roxane Gay, whose writings on feminism, politics, intersectionality and culture have made her one of the most important observers of our time.

Gay is also a passionate art collector and admirer who, along with his wife Debbie Millman, has amassed an impressive personal collection in recent years and has been outspoken about the not always pleasant nature of the New York gallery scene. In an upcoming essay for Artnet News, Gay takes a close look at a new painting by Los Angeles-based figurative painter Calida Rawles which recently debuted as part of her new exhibition at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York City.

Rawles has garnered widespread attention for his sensitive photorealistic depictions of black women and girls swimming and floating in pools – images that present water as an allegorical space for healing while evoking its traumatic historical significance to the black American community, many of whose ancestors died in the Middle Passage and who, for a long time due to the segregationist laws of the Jim Crow era, were prohibited from swimming in certain bodies of water.

Installation view, “Calida Rawles: On the other side of everything” at Lehmann Maupin. Photo: Daniel Kukla.

The artwork Gay writes about – titled High tide, heavy armor– premiered earlier this year and depicts a black man who looks a lot like Kurt Reinhold, a friend of the artist who was shot for jaywalking in San Clemente, Calif., Last February. The character is depicted from above and positioned low on the canvas, eyes downcast as a tumultuous body of water consumes the rest of the canvas. According to Rawles, the water offers a sort of topographical map of the murders of black Americans, describing several states with the highest numbers.

It’s a poignant and gripping image, encompassing Rawles’ thoughts and feelings about the past few years. And in many ways, it marks a departure from his previous work. This week, Artnet News style editor Noor Brara talks to Roxane Gay about these themes, Rawles’s article in particular, and her visceral and personal connection to it.

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