Antwaun Sargent is a writer and critic living in New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, and various museum and gallery publications. This fall his first book, The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, will be published by Aperture. (May 2019)
On September 23, 2019, The New York Review of Books and David Zwirner Books hosted “The Power of the Critic,” the first in a four-part series of public talks bringing together leading writers, artists, and thinkers to explore the role of power within the cultural sphere.
In the paintings that appear in Devan Shimoyama’s “Shh…,” a small recent show at De Buck Gallery in New York City, figures are portrayed with books by various writers in everyday spaces made spectacular with a liberal use of glitter and costume jewelry that give texture to the scenes’ surfaces. It seems that what Shimoyama wants us to think about is what we might be able to control of our identities and our realities by considering and creating language, both visual and written, that defies established representational paradigms. Outside the galleries of portraiture, progress—albeit not enough—is affecting the world of art and literature: museums and publishing houses have already begun creating an alternative contemporary canon that not only takes as its theme the survival of black subjects, but also imagines their futures, and finds within their lives the full spread of pleasure, beauty, and abandon.