The Art of Ben Wilson and the Tradition of Outsider Art

One of my favorite courses to teach is a course on Outsider Art. This tradition lumps together several categories – contemporary folk art, art of the insane (we could start calling this art of  the cognitively divergent, one would suppose), the European Art Brut, and sometimes even graffiti and street paste-up art, but it can sometimes be tricky to determine what is “insider” and what is “outsider.”

In France, during the waning years of the Academy, a tradition where young painters learned from “master” artists, and where royalty still held sway over what was considered art, modernism began to flourish as an outsider position.
My Interpretation of San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk (Monet) Claude Monet and other impressionists, inspired by the rebellious art of Edouard Manet a generation prior, who had worked in the Academy, but who created paintings that were shocking in their handling of subject matter and technique, rejected the Academy all together, preferring to explore art on their own terms. By the end of Monet’s life, modernism and the individual expression; individual struggle, exploration and discovery were the new rule. Monet and his colleagues, including cognitively divergent artist Vincent Van Gogh, were at the heart of a new, middle class (or possibly better described as industrialist class), cannon of modern art.

I discuss this conundrum with students: what is an insider versus an outsider when the radical and new can be so easily adopted within a cannon that redefines itself as it separates the wheat from the chaff, as it were? We are left with a series of categories: an artist could be an insider-insider, someone that studied in and completely adopts the standards and rules of the gallery and museum system; and insider-outsider, someone trained in the tradition of art, but who rejects it to explore financially insecure “outsider” means of expression; an outsider-insider, someone who started creating individualist art either through cognitive drives different than the norm or through self-taught means, or counter cultural ideas, who was then adopted and welcomed into the gallery and museum system; and an outsider-outsider, an artist who started and remained in an outsider position throughout their art making life.

Such an approach can be helpful when we start looking at the art like that of one of the early artists heralded as “Art Brut” or “Raw Art,” Adolf Wölfli who experienced extreme childhood trauma before living in an asylum and creating volumes of artwork based on his internal world.

Adolf Wölfli General view of the island Neveranger, 1911.jpg
General view of the island Neveranger By Adolf Wölfli – Originally uploaded by Wiccan Quagga to en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2902610

This quarter a student decided to study the art of Ben Wilson, a British outsider artist who began working in wood, but who has gone on to paint gum splotches on bridges and sidewalks across London. Growing up in a supportive, artistic environment, and beginning to study art in college, Wilson is a bit of an insider-outsider. He grew up in the world of art, and rejected it to continue his own exploration.

Ben Wilson wood

Sculpture 2 by Ben Wilson, 1994

His most recent work has been painting on chewing gum.

chew_drjohn_2130032i

Ben Wilson photographed by The Guardian.

My independent study student who took the course with me in the Spring quarter did a great job of finding sources to explore Wilson’s work, citing Lucy Lippard on “conceptual” art, and Ian Wallace on the history of the found object as well as other sources on environmental art, graffiti, and contemporary art.

My goal in Outsider Art is to explore how we define art – who defines art? In the Academy, it was senior artists long appointed and patronized by royal families. Authority, aesthetics and artistry were inextricably linked. In modernism it was a more collective effort, driven by the new revenue and new ideas of industrialists who believed that drive, invention and forging ahead in a unique and individual ways defined a person more than their lineage. Money and status were still prime drivers.

In contrast, the concept of Outsider Art allows us to explore the margins of aesthetics, of invention in new ways, but not necessarily separate from the market. Outsider Artists often create their work regardless of monetary gain, but the culture of reception and collection of art pieces is certainly within the framework of modernism. It is rich territory for us to explore, and I look forward to next teaching the class.

 

Yayoi Kusama and the Lost and Found Mind

The art world has been fascinated by automatic art and art of the insane at least since Jean Dubuffet began collecting what he called “Art Brut,” or “raw art,” “outsider art” in the 1920’s. Dubuffet described interest in art by mentally ill artists to be “in the air” at the time (Maizel, John 1996). Dadaism had already pushed to shake cultural norms through its play with mediated images through collage and its Dada Ball, which encouraged outlandish costume and erratic behavior.

Personal expression, discovering new ways outside of strict cultural expectations driven by family, business and culture was the priority, and who has less cultural baggage than a person whose drive to make art comes, not from training, but from fantasies, visions, invisible voices and auras? Plenty of artists have toyed with hallucinogens and other drugs in an attempt to get beyond cultural norms, but what of authenticity? Isn’t it more real if the source of the altered state is intrinsic to the maker?

The other side of the argument is that holding up such work as authentic expression, separate from artists trained in the institutions of art, is exploiting and exoticizing the disorder, not recognizing the true experience or condition the person who experiences such states of mind.

Viewers who don’t or haven’t had the experience of such an artist may necessarily experience the work from the perspective of the “other.” Issues of reception of artists driven to create from a psychological drive or non-neurotypical state may always be complex and fraught with difficulty.

One of the first artists I was drawn to from this tradition is Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama studied Nihonga, a Japanese formal style of painting but, drawn to the avant-garde in America, she relocated to New York City. Some texts describe Kusama as suffering from postwar stress and anxiety in Japan, and looking for a space where she could get away from the pressures of a rigorously structured society.

“Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work has been linked to childhood trauma. Growing up in postwar Japan, where women’s roles were extremely constricted, she had hallucinations in which she or her surroundings dissolved into fields of nets or dots.” (Heartney, Eleanor, 2008)

New York offered that, but Kusama also became a sexual icon in the art scene, staging provocative performances, and creating soft sculpture environments filled with phallic imagery (ibid.). She returned to Japan in 1973 following a nervous breakdown, and resided in a psychiatric institution for a significant period of time.

She is known for her environments, costumes and performances where she, her environment and others are covered in dots. One textbook describes her indicating that the dots are taking over and filling the world. From an exterior perspective, the dots are fun and delightful. From an interior perspective they may suggest dissociation or becoming infested or taken over by the objects that fill her environments.

Kusama is one of the most celebrated modern artists in Japan. In addition to producing artwork, avant-garde clothing and installations, she has written several books. I suggest that it is through a combination of the words and artworks of an artist that we can understand and engage with her full intent, and it is through engaging the dynamic space between our reception and her intent that we can understand and engage with the mind of the artist.

Check out her books online at Amazon and other book sellers.

Go here to see the amazing images of installations and art by Yayoi Kusama.

For more on the origins of outsider art see John Mizel’s 1996 Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond.

For more on contemporary art check out a survey text like Eleanor Heartney’s 2008 Art & Today.

Morris Dances

In 2000 as I was finishing my MFA in Intermedia Art I was creating dance pieces performed to recorded text. My goal was to create a reflexive process, one in which the dance and theory could play off of one another. Rather than having a dance reviewed by a critic, the choreographer could assess and critique his or her own work – display and comment on his or her process.

The video piece and text that follow were one of the most successful examples of this approach. This week I am re-recording the audio. The original text is long gone, and some of the words are garbled and lost in the recording. I listened and wrote down as much as I could understand, then revised any lines of text that are lost to history based on  my recollection of my intent and thinking at that time. Take a look and have a read. I’ll post the revised video once the audio is complete.

The script follows.

Morris Dances: A Deconstruction

This is a make-believe story: Once upon a time, before I received my BA in Dance from the University of Iowa, when Alicia Brown was chair of the dance department, I sat down with her and had a very serious conversation.

I said, “Alicia, I don’t think it would be a very good idea to bring in Mark Morris as a guest choreographer this year for Gala.”

Alecia said, “Why, do you think his sloppy technique would be a detriment to our dancers? I agree that technique that sloppy should be removed from American stages. Europe has become a postmodernist wasteland, but in America? Never!”

I replied, “It’s not the technique I’m so worried about. I just don’t want the boys in Men’s class to end up barefoot and pregnant.”

Alicia agreed, and Mark Morris never came.

_________________________

This… is a true story: When Mark Morris was in Iowa City he looked at me like he wanted to pull my curly hair.

_________________________

This is the truth: I’ve been working on this project for some time now. It’s an attempt to create a dance as discourse. I believe that each kind of movement, each technique, each theoretical school, even each dancer and critic enter into a dialogue about the body and culture. I enter myself into this discourse.

In 1983 Arlene Croce, the critic for the New Yorker had this to say about Mark Morris, quote, “Curly-haired, androgynously handsome young dancer-choreographers who look like Michelangelo’s David have been a feature of the dance scene for some time. Unlike the shaggy hippies whom they replaced, they can be found in ballet as well as in modern dance, in Europe as well as in New York and other American cities. They seem to have come in on the wave of ‘70s glamour – unisex, it was called then – that is now at flood tide among the young. It’s a look I can do without, and I wouldn’t be bringing it up except for the fact that Mark Morris, who closed the fall season at Dance Theater Workshop, has that look without the aureole that puts me off. Morris is a serious choreographer. He has talent, and also, along with his self-awareness, the self-possession that makes the androgynous-youth look stand for something besides dime-store narcissism. Actually, he does sometimes make it stand for that, but it’s a precisely identified attitude – one can smell the popcorn in the air.” End quote. (“Mark Morris Comes to Town” in Arlene Croce Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the New Yorker: An Arlene Croce Reader)

About myself as a dancer: I remember having a conversation with Armando Duarte during my final semester of undergraduate school in which he suggested I just get out there in the dance world and try out a lot of things, try a lot of styles of dance. He said he thought I hadn’t exactly hit my mark or become comfortable as a dancer. That statement can be applied as a metaphor for my entire life. I was not comfortable as a person.

I replied to Armando with an extended ramble about how I wanted to be a choreographer, and how I wanted to create movement vocabulary with yoga as opposed to “positions” based bodily shapes, and on and on and on…. Finally Armando stopped me and said, “Alan, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, it’s already been done.”

Looking back to dance through eyes gained from graduate school I see that this conversation with Armando as an example of my attempted application of a faith model to the body. I wanted dance to be perfect, or at least redemptive. If I wanted to put my leg somewhere in space, I just wanted it to go. I didn’t want bony structures, snapping tendons or irritated fascia to get in the way. I wanted hard work to pay off with a perfect split leap rather than to bobble the landing only to obsess over the risks of pain and injury. I think most people who dance want it to give them a sense of strength and freedom.

Lots of people want to put faith in dance. You can hear it in statements like, “If you pull up your instep actively your knees won’t hurt.”

“These exercises are the fountain of youth.”

And, “If your muscles are sore pull up and turn out more.”

The faith model can also be seen in statements such as, “If your muscles are relaxed you’ll be less likely to tear something.” This is the faith model of the ‘release technique’ school.

I think it’s easy for dancers to forget that what we are really doing is putting our bodies in the service of culture. We are performing different kinds of culture for different dances and training. No forms of training are pure, nor are they safe.

In a very real sense, by performing these different things we put faith in our capability to communicate. If we do a pirouette we have faith in the pirouette’s capability to transmit something from ourselves to our audience. We accept it as a word, as a vocabulary of dance technique, subject of discussion, object to look at, or movement to vicariously feel. Say “arabesque” and see what image you see in your mind.

The same can be said of passe, coupe, contraction, fall and recovery and so forth.

After Bill T. Jones presented in New York City his “Still Here” a work showing valiant struggle in the face of terminal illness, Arlene Croce, without seeing the performance, attacked Jones’ work as post neo Dada Victim Art.

In critiquing Croce’s attack, Marcia B. Siegel wrote the following, quote, “By 1990 the culture was going elsewhere. Ballet and Modern Dance were thoroughly shaken up by the counterculture, and hurting for leadership as a wave of premature deaths swept across the active ranks of choreographers, at the same time that a senior generation was ending. New ideas about dance and performance were seeping into the gaps. Croce lashed out at the dangers of multiculturalism and its misguided promoters at the university. In a tirade worthy of Allan Bloom, she attacked [quote] ‘the political advocacy of other than Western (or non-‘Eurocentric’) forms of dance,’[ end quote] [quote]“divisive notions of culture popular in the Universities” [end quote] (1990:84-87). Instead she offered the thematic eclecticism of then-emerging formalist choreographer Mark Morris as a model that should satisfy our cravings for the exotic without requiring us to abandon Western classical notions of dance and art” end quote. (from Virtual Criticism and the Dance of Death Marcia B. Siegel TDR (1988-) Vol. 40, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 60-70 page 64.

Joan Accocella, from her book The Choreographer: quote, “If Morris in his early years was often described as provocative – the bad boy of modern dance – one of the main reasons was his violation of common notions of masculine and feminine: to begin with, his violation of the rule that a couple must be a man and a woman. Choreographers before Morris had shown us female-female partnering – it was a staple of French nineteenth-century ballet – and also male-male partnering, which is considered far more daring. But Morris in his early dances carried this sort of thing much further, made it a sort of program. In the opening section of his 1984 My Party four couples dance side by side – one FF, one MM, one FM, one MF – and that is the message: no rules, free choice. In New Love Song Waltzes the thing that made the partner-swapping scene so surprising and funny to the audience was not just that the dancers crawled in and out of various pairs of arms but that they did so without regard to the sex of the other person. A woman disentangled herself from the embrace of a man and fell into the arms of a woman, et cetera. No problem” end quote. (from Mark Morris by Joan Accocella, 2004 Wesleyan University Press p. 90)

The second space: the undecided body.

Now, I don’t know how cool this is, because I’m playing with Morris’ work in a way that is so-called ‘deconstructed,’ but I’m going to do it anyway.

I disagree with those who take a formalist approach to Morris’ work. What I want to get across is, I see the audience and perform as somewhat a co-creator in the work. When we think like this, any modern analysis is ultimately undone.

Arlene Croce considers Morris to carry the torch of Balanchine, but the difference between the two is that Balanchine’s dances are easy to notate. There is a sense of precision in Balanchine’s work that relates to the dance notation of Joseph Von Laban and to the precision of Joseph Alber’s Color Theory or the planes and angles of Richard Diebenkorn. These formalist artists rallied to create their work as an exclusive modernism in the 1950’s.

If we compare Mark Morris’ dances to the artists inspired by modernism, it will never add up. To describe how to dance a Morris dance you could say, “ok, here you chassé sote, but don’t really extend your leg, and don’t really point your foot – just flop it out there… Well, I’ll just tell you the steps and you just do them like you’re a frumpy old queen.”

Now, I know what you’re going to say: “It’s not nice to boil someone’s life work down to a stereotype” but this may be a very important step when fighting off the formalists. Identity has been a very important aspect of both art and dance over the last twenty years, and Mark Morris’ choreography has completely incorporated the politics of the body and identity into the work itself,

But it is the undecided body he incorporates: there is either a non-commitment to gender or there is a commitment to fluid gender; there is either a non-commitment to values or there is a commitment to non-family values; there is either a non-commitment to precise line, or there is a commitment to imprecision; there is either a celebration of the body or the body is mocked. The dances, especially in his early works, move into new possibilities. Through, deciding, indecision.

My Party can stand at the center of the beginning of a debate. To call the work, to celebrate the work as part of the formal tradition is to kill it’s possibility.

Ok, so nobody bites my head off I’m going to conclude this thing to a little dance to a song by Trey Parker and Matt Stone performed by the Violent Femmes.

On rereading old blog posts: William T. Vollman

In the early 2000’s I blogged at alanmurdock.com. Those old posts were archived at the internet archive online and sometimes I like to go back and see what I previously thought.

Here is a post from January 2005

“On reading Rising Up and Rising Down

“I’ve found a, not kindred spirit, but something on those lines in William T. Vollmann’s Rising Up Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means. ‘Kindred spirit’ is too dreamy a description for such a hard-edged line of thought, and ‘Kindred’ implies the level of a peer. I am deeply interested in Vollmann’s subject, but my thoughts, while along the same line, dabble in the subject in contrast his breadth of research and experience that now I may only envy and strive to attain.

“Vollmann picks on Krapotkin’s naïve attempts to create a scientific basis for collaboration and sharing. ‘That antediluvian anarchist spent his final years upon an essay rancid with senile optimism.’ (21) Rancid. But he acknowledges the attempt, however innocent, however futile, to construct an objective basis for peace through collaboration. It is more credit than most would give to an anarchist.

“As I’ve implied in the past, nothing irritates me more than this blindly conservative, narrow, hopeful political religion. At the same time, I respect the attempt and the desire for a kind of social peace. However, like Vollmann, I don’t’ believe anything is inherent. Or maybe both peace and violence are inherent. Depending. Vollmann points out that ‘History suggests that whatever a revolution may achieve, its effects upon morality (unlike, say, its effect upon culture) will be temporary and local.’ (24)

“Right now I am happy to enjoy the energy, pragmatism, and challenge of a book meant to encourage us to consider and carefully engage our own acts of moral construction. I’ll post more thoughts as I read. Eventually I’ll post a proper annotated bibliography.”

I taught an honors course the following year in design ethics and included Vollman’s book in the class. A foundational principle of that class was a deconstruction of what we support with our actions and effort. If a designer makes a poster for a fascist government, are they not supporting that government, or can intentions and outcomes be separated? Can the intent to use design for good subvert the client? Is it ethical if it does?

We talked a lot about what each designer in the class is willing to fight for. If you were under deadly attack, would you protect yourself? If you wouldn’t, is it reasonable for another person in the same circumstance to protect themselves? Would you protect your child even if you would be unwilling to protect yourself? By interrogating this line of questioning we were able to break down overarching pacifist notions that if you are a good person you’ll wear a peace button and never hurt a flea. We were also able to interrogate majority culture messages that if you just follow along, go to the mall, and drive your car you’ll fit in and any harm that comes of it you can protect yourself from with your good intentions.

By the end of the course each student constructed their own proposition for what design ethics should look like, plus ten pages of polished writing that allowed students to examine key issues and authors in the area of design ethics. I’d like to teach that course on a regular basis. Its the kind of thinking that is necessary if we are going to work though the issues of today. Already we have new versions of the same old “senile optimism” in new movements like of all things “trauma informed yoga,” and “restorative justice” and “teaching peace in schools.” All of these are about placating what is really wrong so the smile salesmen can simultaneously make a buck and lube the machine. It’s time for real thinkers to rise up and utilize the power of critical thinking to stop the smug, flower power meme machine.

This kind of horseshit can’t be defeated with guns. Art and theory are the only weapons worthy of justice.

Summarizing Black History Month Project

Over the past month, in celebration of Black History month I posted one blog entry per day on a black artist, writer or speaker that has inspired me and changed the way I think about art and the world.

I wanted to take a moment at the end to reflect on the writing, why I did it and what I found out.

First, the people I wrote about are diverse. They don’t represent a homogenized concept of art or of race. Some of the artists have been overtly political in his or her career while others have not. bell hooks comes to mind. Her work in a way is working from the theoretical to the mundane. Theorizing for her is described in her work as a way to cope with and make sense of an unjust world with rigid gender, ethnic, religious and racial boundaries. Amiri Baraka also comes to mind, whose poetry, plays and musical historiography is like the point of a spear, used to fight for intellectual and personal space in a white, white world. When white people think of “Black History” we often run it all together into one thing, because many of the injustices around slavery are clear and immediate, and because many of the first responses to racism in the 20th century have been collective. The truth is more complex, and the ideas and ways to respond to the history of slavery are as varied as the people who have suffered under its weight.

Second, who wants to listen to a white dude write about black people every day for a month? Well, some people do. I was getting consistent hits on the site without a lot of promotion. If I wrote about a person or topic interesting to a person I know, I let them know if I had their email. I posted an announcement to Facebook. On my own side, I wasn’t sure what I  would say.

The inspiration came from a conversation on a friend’s site. My friend is the dean of a college in the Midwest. He had written a post in January asking people to post examples of the different types of black music, explain what is different about it, and to give an example. I jumped in with several examples from punk and blues. Another friend came in and said to the original poster of the thread, “Gettin’ a head start on Black History month, professor?” which I took as a double sided joke – Black History month was coming up, and there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the month. It is insufficient to tell 400 years of western domination and subjugation of Africa and the continent’s diaspora in what is usually 28 days.

I decided I wanted to personalize the month – rather than posting memes and clips from history sites I would write what I know and what has impacted me. Dance History. Art History. These are the areas I’ve studied, and where I studied it, at the University of Iowa, black history was built in. When we studied Dada and the Weimar Republic we also studied Josephine Baker, reading the essentializing French and German reviews that praised Baker as something “new” but also limited her to some kind of tribal Freudian id, grinding in her banana skirt half way between the Congo and Harlem.

The short essays are of course influenced by my own white mostly Midwestern culture. I was born in New York to a mother from Birmingham, Alabama and a Father from California, and grew up in a dominantly white neoliberal college town. In terms of reception I’m going to believe Michael Jackson is more likely of guilt in the charges of sexual abuse, and I’m going to see his music as exciting and new rather than something that is a natural progression of a cultural heritage from my community. This reality leads to my third insight:

Third, reception is a sonofabitch. Most of the artists I wrote about were pre-screened by layers and layers of white culture reception. Cara Walker could be making paper cutouts with kindergartner’s and I would have never known her name if she hadn’t gained representation in galleries, hadn’t been lauded in Artforum, if she had applied to different colleges, or had not been accepted where she studied, or had chosen art education instead of a studio track. I’m no leader in this area, just a follower at the tail end of an industry we call the art world, trying to understand some things from what I look at and read.

There are those with fewer layers: Michael Jackson came out of Motown, the black owned hit machine started by Berry Gordy, Erica Huggins and Amiri Baraka came out of the Black Power movement. Their words historically picked up by white journalists, assessed, rehashed, put in textbooks. It is this year that a black filmmaking team including Stanley Nelson, Laurens Grant and Aljernon Tunsil produced a film allowing the participants to speak so we could feel their emotions, not just hear their words. The participants speak as people, who have hopes for the future and regrets about elements of the past rather than as party line representatives in a pure fight against oppression. Their words invite in white people and youth of all backgrounds who didn’t experience any of it rather than hold us at arms length.

I’m left wondering “what is blackness” and must conclude there is no inherent existence separate from cultural constructs. There is black history but not black-ness. There is identity and culture, and tradition, but no further difference between a black American and a white American than there is between a black American and a Chinese American or a white American and a Chinese American.

Ta-Neheisi Coates says it best in Between the World and Me “I went into this investigation (of black history) imagining history to be a unified narrative, free of debate, which, once uncovered would simply verify everything I had always suspected. And the villains who manipulated the streets would be unmasked… I had come looking for a parade, for a military review of champions marching in ranks. Instead I was left with a brawl of ancestors, a herd of dissenters, sometimes marching together but just as often marching away from each other.” (p 47-48)

In this regard, black art and history is like all art and history. Black artists and writers are their own people, with their own views, not relegated and bound by tradition, but free to express the diversity of black views. It is one reason the artists should be integrated into the body of art survey books rather than relegated to a “black folk at this time…” breakout window or “the black chapter.” The work is coherent. It is about its time, it uses the same media as other artists, and it needs consideration within and not separate to all history.

At the same time, because race has been culturally defined for the purpose of historical separation, that reality must not be overlooked. Like I said at the beginning of this section, reception is a sonofabitch.

In having written the month (and I still have a few days toward the end I must revise because I was sick and unable to write full posts) I feel like the writing was a success a success in that I really wrote what I really experienced from each artist’s work. It highlights both positives and negatives in terms of white reception of black culture. It demonstrates there is far more work to do to not just balance scales, but to make reparation for past harms. For example, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington Time magazine reported that financial equality has not been met:

“Since the mid 1970’s, the unemployment rate for blacks has consistently been roughly double the unemployment rate for whites. Even the concept of wealth is relative when assessed in black or white terms. The median wealth of black families in which the head of household graduated from college is less than the median wealth for whites whose head of household dropped out of high school.” Michelle Norris  Time Magazine August 26/September 2, 2013 p 93.

Norris continues, stating that to make up the disparity the families would need to save 100% of their income for three years. So, in a way, my writing about black artists can’t measure up to the real metrics of what success should look like. For black artists to break through, get beyond the already reduced access to resources to get noticed is a huge burden. In that regard, my writing may be nothing but tokenism, upholding a myth about grit and overcoming.

I’m going to end with a video clip of Buddy Guy interviewed at Guitar Center, because I think he is really honest about his situation. At one point he was pumping gas at a gas station and he was offered a job playing guitar in a club for the same pay. It might seem like he was lucky. That there were no real barriers to him becoming an artist. It might seem like he had total freedom. But the truth is the opposite. Because he was blocked from almost every path to success due to the color of his skin the choice was open, and in a lot of ways that’s not choice at all.

Buddy Guy does amazing things with a guitar, and in some ways it has been racialized ideas that pushed him to the fore. In listening to his music we can celebrate him and recognize the tragedy that has been racial injustice in America, and hopefully it spurs us to be better.

Black History Month is not enough.