Heads are still spinning at the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, after outrage over photos of an artist in blackface prompted the gallery to remove the exhibit on Sunday, AZCentral reported. Hopefully, the Institute realizes now that it’s never OK to pretend that white people in blackface can pass as art.
“I sincerely apologize for upset and pain caused by my decision. The images in question represent an error in judgment and my lack of awareness. We will remove the work immediately, and it will not be shown on January First Friday,” said Ted Decker, the exhibit’s curator who took responsibility for the display.
The artist Bob Carey created images of himself with “alter-ego disguises referencing transformation and stereotypes” that include blackface, according to the art institute’s description. Carey later apologized, saying that he didn’t set out to hurt feelings. He insisted that the photographs were “about psychological self-exploration and transformation, based on my personal experiences and perceptions.” Art is a powerful medium to express deep thoughts and emotions. It uniquely gives voice, inspires and helps people connect. But that’s not what Carey did. A simple dialogue with members of the city’s Black community would have opened his eyes to the irresponsibility of using an image that is so offensive.
People are looking for value from art. They want to be moved, to understand the world from a different perspective and to connect with the artists. Using blackface as art achieves none of those things. The outgoing vice chair of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Phoenix said he had a conversation with Carey and found a lack of cultural respect, the news outlet said. That’s at the core of his problem.