On a Friday night in early April, Buffalo artist Stacey Robinson stood in a corner of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and gave this performance:
As you can hear from the chatter echoing through the gallery, very few people paid any attention to it.
In the brief performance, he raised many questions that have long preoccupied black artists about where they belong in the pantheon of mostly white, mostly male artists whose work makes up the majority of most museum collections.
In the talk, Robinson asked a series of increasingly agitated questions about what he sees as a lack of representation of black artists in the gallery's collection. He mentioned that the collection contains work by Carrie Mae Weems, Romare Bearden and Lorna Simpson (though curiously he did not mention the work of Kara Walker, whose mammoth temporary sculpture in Brooklyn is now the talk of the art world), but wondered aloud why the gallery's collection of work by black artists doesn't go deeper.
"Black art I'm looking for you, but I can't find you in the circulating collection at the Albright-Knox," Robinson says, addressing the work of black artists as if it is an actual person. "Am I the only one who cares that there is a lack of equal representation of Black art collected at the Albright-Knox?"
In Buffalo, one of the most segregated cities in the United States, it's rare to see a non-white face at an art opening. There are few Buffalo-based artists of color whose work is shown in local galleries. So the questions Robinson raises are relevant not only to the upper echelon of the local art world that the Albright-Knox and its collection represents, but the broader makeup of the city's creative community.
I'm posting his performance in hopes of kicking off a conversation about this stark reality. I've talked to Robinson at length about the performance and plan to follow up with someone from the Albright-Knox for a future column.
Please share your thoughts about Robinson's performance in the comment section.