People who are asked to speak for their generation feel this kind of pressure to say something profound. What advice would you give writers coming up?
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”* Do the work. Do not react. Shut up. Toni Morrison said it best about getting old: “I’m 80 years old,” and I asked her what that means, and she said, “It means go away, shut up.” There is a culture and a climate of permissiveness that is degrading to young lives. They feel, often, because they’ve had an experience, that it’s valid. No. The level of permissiveness that has been encouraged by the “new parenting” means that they think everything that happens to them is interesting. What is interesting is when you give it energy that is joyful, respectful, informed. There has to be a context for the discussion of anything, including and especially anything as thorny as race and gender. — PARIS LA**
The Black Book (1974, new edition 2019)—assembled and edited by Morrison and Middleton A. Harris—is a publication that brings together hundreds of images and documents depicting the African-American experience from 1619 through the mid-twentieth century. Alive with a propulsive energy—“joyful, respectful, informed”—this visual encyclopedia provides the context and inspiration for TONI MORRISON’S BLACK BOOK, a new exhibition at David Zwirner in New York curated by Hilton Als.
In addition to the works shown here, the show includes a new series by Amy Sillman, a single-channel video by Garrett Bradley, a Joseph Cornell box from the mid 1950s, Beverly Buchanan’s Wall Column, Julie Mehretu’s A Mercy (after T. Morrison), Martin Puryear’s New Voortrekker, Bob Thompson’s Abundance and the Four Elements, photographs by Anthony Barboza and Martin Schoeller—as well as a rare presentation of Kerry James Marshall’s film practice.
See links below for details.
Curated by Hilton Als
Through February 26
525 West 19th Street, New York City
See Alex Greenberger, “Hilton Als on Curating a Show Inspired by Toni Morrison at David Zwirner,” Artnews, January 20, 2022, online.
*Fran Lebowitz, “Tips for Teens,” in Social Studies (New York: Random House, 1981). Lebowitz on Morrison in 2019: “We saw each other all the time. Toni was an editor at Random House, which was my publisher at the time. The company president called me up once and said, ‘You have to stop hanging around in Toni’s office. The two of you are in there all day smoking cigarettes and you’re laughing so much you’re disturbing people. Plus, Toni’s not getting her work done.’ Of course we didn’t listen to him and of course she got her work done.”
**“The Energy of Joy: Hilton Als in Conversation with David Bridel and Mary-Alice Daniel,” PARIS LA 16 (2018–2019), 220–221. The interview took place in February 2018 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
From top: Kerry James Marshall, A lithe young man…, 2021, © Kerry James Marshall, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, London; Beverly Buchanan, For Mallory, 1995, © The Beverly Buchanan Estate and Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York; Jacob Lawrence, Pool Players, 1938, © 2022 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Gwen Knight, The Boudoir, 1945, © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York; Walter Price, Thinly coded language, 2019, © Walter Price, courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York; James Van Der Zee, Untitled, 1931, © The Estate of James Van Der Zee and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York; James Van Der Zee, Untitled, 1939, © The Estate of James Van Der Zee and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York; Walter Price, Follow the flame, 2021, © Walter Price, courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York; Robert Gober, Untitled, 1993, collection of Pamela and Arthur Sanders, © Robert Gober; Photographer unknown, Toni Morrison in China, 1984, courtesy of Princeton University Library (Toni Morrison Papers, Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, Princeton University Library).