To be white in American culture today means occupying a social norm so powerful and pervasive that it is rarely even acknowledged. As a marker of identity, whiteness remains an ever-present, and largely unexplored, state of mind and body. This exhibition offers a critical examination of how white skin and white privilege inexorably shape images of the world—and suggests ways we might be able to change them.
Until recently, discussions about race and representation have focused almost exclusively on the experience and struggles of people of color. Such investigations were—and continue to be—essential to peeling back the complex layers of the very idea of race. But they most often left aside the category of ”whiteness,” which has remained largely invisible, unconscious, presumed. Yet failing to mark whiteness—to probe it and assign it meaning—means failing to take a hard look at a vital component of the social construction of race. In the end, to overlook representations of whiteness is not only to encourage their predominance but also to neglect their potential frailties and weaknesses. No full discussion of race can be complete without addressing these often elusive images.
This exhibition affords viewers the opportunity to see pictures by major contemporary artists, framed through the lens of whiteness. These particular pieces were selected for the way they help make whiteness visible, and thus available for scrutiny. In some cases the artists meant to confront issues of race directly, in others this reading is simply one of many critical perspectives. No matter the approach, the works in ”White” strive to challenge traditional notions of race, urging us to look beyond entrenched stereotypes, surprising blind spots, and the received ideas that help keep the race debate restricted to comfortable, familiar modes of discussion.
— Maurice Berger GUEST CURATOR
”White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art” was organized by the Center for Art and Visual Culture, UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland. Generous support for the exhibition comes from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc., and the Maryland State Arts Council. ICP’s presentation received additional support from Richard and Ellen Kelson.