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Adrian Pipper

Dear Readers,

This Fall, there is a remarkable art exhibition at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum entitled «Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965-2016.»  I have studied Piper’s work for decades, and I greatly appreciate the way this retrospective show captures her deep sense of commitment, humor, and intellectual rigor.  Piper is a true multi-media artist (working in performance, installation, video, photography, drawing, etc.), has a doctorate in philosophy, and has practiced yoga since the mid-1960s.  All of these factors come together in her poignant artistic efforts to improve the world.

One of Piper’s most powerful techniques is to make viewers aware of their habitual xenophobic thought-processes.  She demonstrates the urgent need for all of us to behave consciously and stop automatically reacting negatively towards the new or unfamiliar.

This may be seen, for instance, in a small room that displays Safe #1-4 (1990).  It contains four large black-and-white photographs of joyful African and African-American gatherings, like celebratory family dinners and a group ski trip.  Printed in red across the bottom of each photograph is one of the following phrases: «We are around you,» «We are among you,» «We are within you,» «You are Safe.»  Well aware of the overwhelming amount of negative/racist depictions of Black people in mass media, Piper offers the opposite.  The opposite is compelling.  It forces viewers to question the constant proliferation of detrimental images regarding Black communities.  When one pauses to actively cross-examine the validity of such racist representations, then one can begin to think in a conscious, less reactive, and more peaceful manner towards everyone.  And that is a pretty good step towards making the world a better place.


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