Contemporary Artists on Art and Society
written by Abby Schultz, Baron's Penta Magazine, March 23, 2020
Penta brought together four New York–based artists—Tishan Hsu, Christopher Myers, Mika Rottenberg, and Tariku Shiferaw—for dinner at the Midtown Manhattan restaurant Butter to talk about the role art can play in society.
Penta: While poetry may not make anything happen, it does provide “a way of finding meaning,” as the U.K.–based poet Tamar Yoseloff has said. How do you think art—in the form of poetry, painting, sculpture, or anything else—helps society understand the social and political disruptions of our time?
Tariku Shiferaw: When politically hard times happen, there are artists that have gone to abstraction. You could look at [African-American artist] Romare Bearden [1911-88], who retreated to abstraction during hard times. So did [African-American artist] Jack Whitten [1939-2018], who, after 1969, goes deep into abstraction and starts talking about the stars and science fiction, because it affords him something internal, something safe.
Photograph by Grace Rivera