Art is never detached from daily life. Contemporary art reflects the times in which we live and is subject to multiple interpretations and reactions. CAM’s current exhibition, Kelley Walker: Direct Drive, has received an intense critical response, with many people finding the work to be personally offensive and politically and socially insensitive. A boycott of the museum was called for by members of the St. Louis community, which included demands for the works’ removal.
The events at CAM are worthy of discussion within the context of other art controversies. From the notorious “Armory Show” early in the 20th century, to the “culture wars” of the 1980s and ‘90s, censorship issues over the works of artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, and Andres Serrano, or the actual removal of artwork from public places—Diego Rivera, Richard Serra, Kara Walker, for example—art, artists, museums, administrators, legislators, and the public regularly find themselves at odds with each other.
Contemporary Class: Art and Protest will examine the fractures that occur between art and community. Clashes over artistic freedom, the cultural impact of dialogue and dissent, and historical parallels with CAM’s current exhibition are placed into context by a panel that includes Ivy Cooper, Professor of Art History at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Bradley Bailey, Associate Professor of Art History at Saint Louis University; Olubukola Gbadegesin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of African-American Studies at Saint Louis University; E. Louis Lankford, Ph.D., E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor at University of Missouri–St. Louis; and Kelly Scheffer; Adjunct Instructor at St. Louis Community College.