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The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time

DATES Friday, May 14, 2021 through Sunday, April 10, 2022
  • The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time
    2020 was a powerful and complex disruptor, with the confluence of a global pandemic, widespread protests over police violence against Black people, heightened xenophobia, a contested presidential election, and unchecked climate change. These issues did not emerge solely over twelve months but amplified many long standing inequities in this country and worldwide.

    This selection of works from our collection of contemporary art centers artists of color and shows how the issues they address have taken on even greater meaning and urgency in the context of our current lives. A term borrowed from aeronautics, "slipstream" refers to the turbulence behind a moving object that pulls us along. In the slipstream of 2020, individuals continue to wrestle with feelings of fear, grief, vulnerability, anger, isolation, and despair.

    The works on view, many of which are recent acquisitions, explore a number of the ways people seek to maintain a sense of being in the wake of tumult. Some pieces embrace the beauty and power of nature or the reassuring ties to family, friends, and community. Some offer sites of spiritual well-being, examine how personal views can illuminate larger political issues, or speak to the power of acting collectively rather than alone. Some preserve the simple rituals and joys of daily life. Together, these artworks offer space to respond and stay grounded. gather strength, and consider paths into the future.
  • Connection
    Families—biological and chosen as well as elders and ancestors—shape our identities as individuals and community members and help us define ourselves. In these works, artists consider family relationships through which we locate ourselves in the present and connect to the past.
  • Belief
    Rich inner lives connect us to invisible but strongly felt forces beyond rational comprehension. These artists consider organized religious rituals and solitary individual reflection as ways to nurture our spiritual lives and to be in the other-than-physical world.
  • Nature
    These artists explore different visions of nature. Natural beauty provides an antidote to the stresses of daily life; at the same time, a number of individual and collective actions have negatively impacted the natural world in alarming ways, causing pollution, environmental degradation, and ecological disaster.
  • Togetherness
    From our neighborhoods and nations to our social and political groups, communities offer a sense of belonging and a viable alternative to the model of individual power. These artists consider the possibilities presented by the concept of the collective.
  • Self-Reflection
    Our personal lives are rarely separate from the political histories that shape the ways we see ourselves in the world. These artists explore the intersections between individual experience and overlapping conversations around race, feminisms, queerness, and illness.
  • Pleasure 
    In tumultuous times, experiences of joy, humor, leisure, and rest can hold radical possibilities for transformation. These artists capture moments of everyday pleasure, be they located in family, friendship, and community, in life’s daily rituals, or in creativity and the act of art-making itself.
  • Agency
    Through visual means, these artists reorient the ways power is constructed and historically maintained, often to cater to the wants and fictions of white male patrons and audiences. By centering Black, Indigenous, and queer articulations of resistance and reclamation, they counter normative ideas of history to offer glimpses of other, freer futures.
  • April 13, 2021 Opening May 14, the exhibition contemplates the tumultuous year 2020 and its lasting impact on our future, with new contemporary acquisitions from the collection, including artists Mel Chin, Arthur Jafa, Tschabalala Self, Simone Leigh, and others.

    A major new commission for the Museum’s façade, Nick Cave’s Truth Be Told, will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition.

    The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time draws examples from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned collection of contemporary art to contemplate the profound disruption that occurred in 2020. Borrowing its title from an aeronautical term that refers to the pull of the current that is left in the wake of a large and powerful object, the exhibition examines the placement and displacement of power that runs throughout American history and continues today. In the slipstream of 2020, the confluence of the devastating effects of the pandemic, civil unrest across the United States, a contested Presidential election, and unchecked climate change will continue to shape conversations about the state of the nation and world. The exhibition seeks to hold space for individuals to find their feelings of fear, grief, vulnerability, anger, isolation, and despair—as well as those of joy, determination, and love—reflected in the art.

    The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time
    is curated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, with Joseph Shaikewitz, Curatorial Assistant, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum.

    Centering artists of color, The Slipstream features works created by multiple generations of artists dating from the 1960s to the present day. More than sixty artworks, in a variety of mediums and styles, will be organized in seven sections around themes such as collective power, family ties, spiritual well-being, relationships to nature, and the simple rituals of daily life.

    “The concept of the slipstream provides a vantage point from which to contemplate what has just passed while still feeling its pull, and to consider meaningful ways to move forward,” says Eugenie Tsai. “The exhibition underscores the Brooklyn Museum’s longstanding commitment to building a collection that reflects diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, and to presenting art that centers the stories of people of color. We are very grateful to our benefactors for making it possible to represent these narratives, since many of the exhibition’s artworks have been generously gifted to the Museum.”

    Many of the artworks in The Slipstream are recent acquisitions. Among them are major installations including Mel Chin’s long-running environmental justice project The Fundred Reserve (2008–19) and Simone Leigh’s Loophole of Retreat (2019), which is inspired by American abolitionist Harriet Jacobs’s autobiography recounting her journey to freedom. The exhibition also features a number of recently acquired film and video works: Arthur Jafa’s film akingdoncomethas (2018), made from found footage of Black churches’ services and gospel performances; William Kentridge’s 4 Soho Eckstein Films (1989–91), which explores race and whiteness in South Africa’s apartheid system; and Tourmaline’s Salacia (2019), which follows a Black trans woman and sex worker as she navigates brutal systems of racism and transphobia in New York in the 1830s.

    In addition to its conceptual approach, the exhibition presents a broad range of techniques and materials that characterize and expand the boundaries of contemporary art-making, including textiles, appliqué, collage, and text. Each of these mediums has its own long history but has been reinvigorated in innovative ways in the hands of artists working today. For example, in My Father’s FBI File; Government Employees Installation (2017), Sadie Barnette takes an archival approach by enlarging and embellishing five hundred files that the F.B.I. gathered on her father, a former Black Panther member. In cycle (2020), Hugo McCloud incorporates hundreds of scraps from single use plastic bags to comment on the way plastics travel from mass manufacturing to consumption and disposal. Several works also incorporate textile techniques traditionally relegated to handcraft: Tschabalala Self’s painting Piss (2019) uses painted and found fabric appliqué and collage to capture a moment of lighthearted mischief among three exaggerated human forms, and Diedrick Brackens’s when no softness came (2019) is an exuberant textile work inspired by Black cowboys that reimagines the trope of the heroic male on horseback.

    In order to reckon with the year 2020, the exhibition also turns to earlier works in the collection that speak to the current moment. Paul Ramírez Jonas’s The Commons (2011) reconsiders the purpose of monuments by depicting a riderless horse that evokes the imperial motif of equestrian statues; viewers are invited to add to the sculpture, which is made of cork, thereby shifting the focus from an individual leader to collectively held power. Other highlights include Dindga McCannon’s joyful painting West Indian Day Parade (1976), which celebrates the annual Caribbean carnival that energizes the streets surrounding the Brooklyn Museum, and Emma Amos’s Flower Sniffer (1966), a depiction of leisure and joy in the lives of Black people that was a political act in its time and remains so today.

    In conjunction with The Slipstream, the Museum will debut a major commission designed by Nick Cave in collaboration with Bob Faust for the Museum’s lower façade. An earlier iteration of Truth Be Told was made in response to the police killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and was first exhibited outdoors at Jack Shainman Gallery’s Kinderhook, New York, space known as The School. The installation will speak across all of the Museum’s collections as it welcomes visitors and sets the tone for the works on view.

    The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time is curated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, with Joseph Shaikewitz, Curatorial Assistant, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum.

    Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    The Slipstream
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