Offense and Dissent: Image, Conflict, Belonging
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery
June 26 - September 3, 2014
Twenty-five years ago, a furor erupted at The New School when Sekou Sundiata,
poet, performer, and professor, scrawled his dissent across a blackface image
exhibited in the Parsons Galleries. His "X" inspired others and 40 signatures soon
covered the image. Part of an exhibition of the work of Japanese designer Shin
Matsunaga, the offending image was the long-time logo of a Japanese soft-drink
The responses at the university were complex: They ranged from celebrations of
freedom of expression to questions of artistic censorship and defacement, from
expressions of extreme distress and anger to reviews of procedures for exhibitions,
contextual signage, and disclaimers.
This exhibition explores the ways in which offense has been given (and taken) and
dissent expressed (and managed) through three incidents in the history of The New
School: the 1951 and ’53 curtaining of the University’s signature Orozco murals
during the Red Scare years; the 1970 anti-war exhibition put up by Parsons students
in lieu of a senior show, in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings; and the 1989
Matsunaga affair. In addition, current New School faculty, staff, and students add
their responses to the provocations and pleasures of their present university
environment—the art on the walls or the design of university spaces.
Memoranda, letters, posters, press coverage, catalogues, and interviews, largely
drawn from The New School Archives and Special Collections, and two original
editorial illustrations designed for the show, trace the rapid-fire interchange of
perspectives and reactions in each instance. They demonstrate the ongoing power
of images both to inspire and to wound.
We invite you to contribute to these questions:
- Is there a work of art (in an institution, public space, on the street) or an aspect of design (signage, sidewalks, bike lanes) in New York City that provokes you?
- If you could raise an issue or effect a change, how would you begin the conversation?
Send us an image of the work of art/design, via Twitter or email, along with a question and we will add it to the discussion in the gallery:
Twitter: @sjdcparsons #offensedissent
Curated by Julia Foulkes, Mark Larrimore, and Radhika Subramaniam.
In collaboration with The New School Archives and Special Collections and The New School Art Collection.