Letters Editor 14 September 1990
The New York Times
229 West 43 St.
New York, NY 10036
To the Editor:
For the record I want to correct the following inaccuracies in Roberta Smith’s review [“Adrian Piper,” Friday, September 14, 1990] of my exhibition at the John Weber Gallery. (1) There is no work in the exhibition that “includes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading a protest.” (2) The part of that work that includes a picture of civil rights marchers at the 1963 March on Washington (where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech) does not “invite … the viewer to ‘list your fears of what we might know about you’.” That text accompanies a different image and the image referred to in her review is accompanied by a different text. (3) The exhibition does not include “four works installed in the gallery’s corners.” (4) The single work that comprises four panels installed in the gallery’s corners plus an audio tape – which Smith incorrectly ascribes to a different series of works – does not “offer images of large, affluent, light-skinned black families and one of a darker-skinned African family.” The work does include two images of African-American families, both of whose members exhibit a wide range of skin color from dark to light (as is usual among African-Americans), and neither of which is portrayed as affluent (unless Smith thinks that African-Americans sitting around a large dining room table or dressed in the usual variety of American clothing styles must be “affluent”). This work also includes one image of an African-American skiing group and one of part of an African village community of men, women and children. All of this information was available in the catalogue, the exhibition checklist, or the exhibition itself. (5) As for Smith’s complaint that my “style” of “combining words and pictures” is “a little too close to Barbara Kruger’s,” I am happy to have my work compared to that of such an interesting artist. But since – as is evident from my retrospective catalogue, Reflections 1967-1987, which Smith was sent years ago – the “style” of my work has involved “combining words and pictures” since 1968, the point of comparison is inappropriate and misleading in this instance.
It would appear that the “familiarity” Smith finds in my work depends on not having bothered to look at it at all. I would prefer that she not review my work in the future.