Stream The Power of the Artist
Art has the power to move us—but who has the power to create art, to present it, and to control the narratives around it?
David Zwirner and The New York Review of Books present the second in a series of talks exploring the intersection of power and culture: a conversation that brings together electrifying artists to discuss the ways in power and art go hand in hand, and the ways in artist shape and are shaped by the cultural moments they exist in.
This conversation will investigate how creators—from visual artists to poets and playwrights—both wield power and are subject to the power of institutions, patrons, and cultural dialogue. It will investigate how artists conceive the power that their works might have, and it will grapple with how entities possessing power—the public, the artist, and the work itself—come into contact with one another, sometimes with combustible results.
The discussion brings together four vital voices: Elizabeth Alexander, poet, essayist, and playwright, and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; playwright and actor Jeremy O. Harris; author and cultural critic Fran Lebowitz; and artist Lisa Yuskavage. Moderated by Daniel Mendelsohn, Editor-at-Large of The New York Review of Books, the talk will take place at The Kitchen on February 3.
About the Panelists
Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, author, educator, scholar, cultural advocate, and president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2018, she served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. Alexander’s career in education includes professorships at Columbia and Yale Universities (between 2015 and 2018 and 2000 and 2015, respectively). She is the author and co-author of fourteen books, including a collection of poems titled American Sublime (2005) and her 2015 memoir, The Light of the World, both of which made her a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
An author, humorist, and social commentator, Fran Lebowitz is a contributing editor and occasional columnist for Vanity Fair, where she publishes her acerbic views on current events and the media. Hired by Andy Warhol to write for Interview magazine in 1972, her first two books were the essay collections Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981). Lebowitz had a recurring role as Judge Janice Goldberg on the television drama Law & Order from 2001 to 2007, and has made several appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. She is collaborating with film director Martin Scorsese (who cast her as a judge in his 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street) on an upcoming Netflix series in which she will speak about New York City and other subjects.
The actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris is known for his plays Daddy (2016) and Slave Play (2018)—an award-winning production about race, sex, power relations, trauma, and interracial relationships written during Harris’s first year at the Yale School of Drama. He received four awards for his work in 2018, including the Rosa Parks Playwriting Award and the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, which includes a residency at the off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre. He is a co-author of the screenplay for the forthcoming film Zola, directed by Janicza Bravo.
Lisa Yuskavage’s works are characterized by an ongoing engagement with the history of painting. Over the past two decades, she has developed her own genre of the female nude: lavish, erotic, cartoonish, vulgar, angelic young women cast within fantastical, atmospheric landscapes or dramatically lit interiors. They appear to occupy their own realm while narcissistically contemplating themselves and their bodies. Published in 2019 by David Zwirner Books, Lisa Yuskavage: Babie Brood, Small Paintings, 1985–2018 is the first survey of the artist’s small-scale paintings—intimate works that offer a new window into her transgressive paintings and complex, influential oeuvre.
About the Host
Daniel Mendelsohn, the Editor-at-Large of The New York Review of Books and Director of the Robert B. Silvers Foundation, is a frequent contributor of essays on books, movies, theater, television, and classical antiquity to The New York Review of Books as well as to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and many other publications. He is the author of The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity (1999); The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006); and An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (2017). His other books include a translation, with commentary, of the complete poems of Constantine Cavafy and three collections of essays and criticism, most recently Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to ‘Game of Thrones.’
Presented by David Zwirner Books and The New York Review of Books, POWER/CULTURE is a series of public talks bringing together leading writers, artists, and thinkers to explore the role of power within the cultural landscape. The talks examine the shifting power of the critic, the artist, the public, and the patron, both historically and today, and are hosted by Daniel Mendelsohn, editor-at-large of The New York Review of Books.
The series launched in September 2019 with “The Power of the Critic,” a conversation about the evolving role of critics, publications, and media in making taste, careers, and canons.
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Image: Jeremy O. Harris, Elizabeth Alexander, Lisa Yuskavage, Fran Lebowitz, and Daniel Mendelsohn on The Power of the Artist panel, The Kitchen, New York, 2020