Coming to Dana Schutz’s Defense, Cindy Sherman and Other Artists Pen an Open Letter to Her Critics

Artists must not perpetuate "the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others," they say.

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Image courtesy ICA Boston.

Prominent members of the National Academy, including Kara Walker, Marina Abramovic, Ed Ruscha, Jack Whitten, and Cindy Sherman, are coming to the defense of the artist Dana Schutz and the ICA Boston.

In an open letter distributed by email on Thursday evening, the signatories voiced their support of “cultural institutions like the ICA Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue.”

The letter comes amid heated debate over Schutz’s work following her controversial contribution to this year’s Whitney Biennial. Last week, a group of local artists and community members called for the cancellation of the ICA Boston’s exhibition, which they said amounts to an endorsement of Open Casket (2016), her painting of Emmett Till that drew protests at the Whitney. (Open Casket is not included in the ICA’s exhibition.)

“It is of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others,” the artists write.

Speaking to artnet News last week, the ICA’s chief curator Eva Respini said the exhibition—which has been in the works for two years—seeks to demonstrate Schutz’s evolution as a painter over the past decade.

See the open letter by the Academicians in full below, followed by their signatures.

As members of the National Academy, we would like to voice our unequivocal support for Dana Schutz, who was recently excoriated by a group of Boston artists who were demanding that her current exhibition at the ICA in Boston be canceled, a demand meant to penalize Schutz, the artist behind Open Casket, a controversial painting featured at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which draws on the well-known photograph of Emmett Till lying disfigured in his casket.

This painting is not included in the ICA exhibition.

As fellow artists and architects, we wholeheartedly support cultural institutions like the ICA-Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue.

It is also of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others.

We support the ICA-Boston and its decision to exhibit the works of Dana Schutz, and to maintain programming that fosters conversations between people with different points of view, especially given our current political climate of intolerance.

Sig Abeles, NA
Marina Abramovic, NA-Elect
Stan Allen, NA
Polly Apfelbaum, NA
Dotty Attie, NA
Judith Bernstein, NA-Elect
Robert Birmelin, NA
Willard Boepple, NA
Richard Bosman, NA
Gregory Botts, NA
Pau Broches, NA-Elect
Henry Casselli, NA
Walter Chatham, NA
Chuck Close, NA
William Clutz, NA
Lisa Corinne Davis, NA-Elect
Donna Dennis, NA
Jane Dickson, NA
Rackstraw Downes, NA
Jackie Ferrara, NA-Elect
Louise Fishman, NA
Andrew Ginzel, NA
Jacqueline Gourevitch, NA
Philip Grausman, NA
Barbara Grossman, NA
Richard Haas, NA
Nancy Hagin, NA
Ann Hamilton, NA
Walter Hatke, NA
Julie Heffernan, NA
Nona Hershey, NA
Diana Horowitz, NA
David Humphrey, NA
Valerie Jaudon, NA
Roberto Juarez, NA
Harriet Korman, NA
Joyce Kozloff, NA
Tuck Langland, NA
Pat Lasch, NA
Jonathan Lasker, NA
Mel Leipzig, NA
Alfred Leslie, NA
James McGarrell, NA
Melissa Meyer, NA
Raoul Middleman, NA
John Moore, NA
John Newman, NA
Catherine Opie, NA-Elect
Tom Otterness, NA
Anthony Panzera, NA
Philip Pearlstein, NA
Judy Pfaff, NA-Elect
Ed Ruscha, NA-Elect
Joseph Santore, NA
Peter Saul, NA
Dread Scott, NA-Elect
Annabelle Selldorf, NA
Arlene Shechet, NA
Laura Shechter, NA
Cindy Sherman, NA-Elect
James Siena, NA
Elena Sisto, NA
Richard Sloat, NA
Joan Snyder, NA
Gary Stephan, NA
Jessica Stockholder, NA
Immi Storrs, NA
Altoon Sultan, NA
Barbara Takenaga, NA
Claire Van Vliet, NA
Don Voisine, NA
Kara Walker, NA-Elect
Susan Jane Walp, NA
Sharon Wandel, NA
Leslie Wayne, NA
Stephen Westfall, NA
Jack Whitten, NA-Elect

“Dana Schutz” is on view until November 26, 2017 at the ICA, Boston.

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