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Everything about you seems to ring a bell

The Menil's latest show (which must have been conceived very recently, as it was not included in a calendar of exhibits from this past January) is a retread: curator Franklin Sirmans has asked Houston collective Otabenga Jones to "raid the Menil’s own vast icebox" (a reference to a 1969 show curated by Andy Warhol), and select "a dazzling array" of objects including masks, slave-trade documents, memorial memorabilia of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jacob Epstein's bronze Head of Paul Robeson, and various artworks by white Westerners, including Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Cornell and Andy Warhol. Didn't the Menil just do pretty much the same idea with David McGee's 2005 exhibit Deep Wells and Reflecting Pools, which included, yes, slave trade documents, Jacob Epstein's bronze Head of Paul Robeson, and works by white Westerners, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Dawe and Marcel Antonin Verdier? Admittedly, this new show has a classroom element where visitors will be able to participate in a curriculum designed to transform the museum, "a historically pedagogical institution, [into] a platform on which to explore the cultural tension of knowledge as both an effective form of self-empowerment and a culprit of racist ideology." The museum tries, in its press release, to suggest that they're not treading in highly familiar waters by pointing out getting artists to rifle through its collection has been a theme running through several recent shows, (McGee, Robert Gober, Vik Muniz), but the argument is pretty thin.

also by Rainey Knudson
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