Comment on:Pleasure and Pain: Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry”

CNQ’s review of Kerry James Marshall’s amazing retrospective at the Met Breuer is so offensive that at first I honestly thought it was a badly executed joke about the White Oppression Complex. Each paragraph made my jaw drop lower with horror at the narcissism of a viewer whose response to Marshall’s exploration of race and representation is simply “Wah, this makes me feel bad about myself.”

The childish resentment implicit in the (condescending) phrase “Hey, Mr. Marshall, I think you wanted me to feel the horror and the loss that racism has wrought and I do” is just the beginning. The reviewer goes on to complain, “no matter how I try, I cannot make it all right,” as if offended by the lack of an easy escape from being implicated in the history of American racism.

The part that made me want to reach through my computer and smack this infantile writer was: “I saw Aretha Franklin perform just a few years ago and near the end of the concert she sat down at the piano and said, “Nobody has ever asked me to sing Easter Parade and I’ve always wanted to.” And then she did. I wish Marshall would.”

Would that make everything okay? Are artists of color supposed to insert themselves into white suburbia in ways that make white people feel just great about themselves? What a pathetic perspective on art.

The last straw is when the writer whines about feeling excluded from the space of the black barbershop in De Style. Finally, a happy picture, and yet it’s not about ME, wah. Heaven forbid that a (presumably white) art critic should feel any lack of entitlement.

Please tell me this review WAS a bad joke, I feel sick to my stomach.
Sarah B