Howardena Pindell. Free, White and 21. 1980. Video (color, sound), 12:15 min. Gift of Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, and Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis. © 2019 Howardena Pindell. Courtesy of the artist and The Kitchen, New York

Among Others: A Conversation

Ann Temkin, Darby English, and Howardena Pindell discuss the history of blackness at MoMA.

The essay that opens the book Among Others: Blackness at MoMA, written by Darby English and Charlotte Barat, explores the Museum’s uneven relationship with black artists, black audiences, and the subject of racial blackness over time. The pages that follow present more than 200 works in the collection, produced either by black artists or in response to racially-charged subjects, each accompanied by commentary from a wide range of authors. From two perspectives—one historical, one looking at the state of the collection and the kinds of truth found in works of art—the book offers parallel frameworks for looking hard at the role that MoMA has played in shaping the cultural politics of race.

Artist Howardena Pindell is in a unique position to speak on the subject. As both a former curator on MoMA’s staff and an artist in the Museum’s collection, she provides an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective on MoMA’s historical treatment of race-related subjects. “It was a hidden identity, in a way,” she says. “I mean, I had two résumés. One which listed my museum work and the other was my artistic stuff. I tried to keep them separate.” Here, chief curator of Painting and Sculpture Ann Temkin and Darby English, adjunct curator and a co-editor of Among Others, join Pindell to talk about her time at MoMA and how that experience influenced her activism.