No. 340: Whistler’s Mother, Otobong Nkanga

Episode No. 340 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features author and historian Daniel E. Sutherland and artist Otobong Nkanga.

With Georgia Toutziari, Daniel E. Sutherland is the co-author of “Whistler’s Mother: Portrait of an Extraordinary Life.” The book, a biography of Anna Whistler, explains both the austere woman represented in James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s famed 1871 painting Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1, better known as Whistler’s Mother, and Anna Whistler’s involvement in her son’s career. Anna Whistler lived a remarkable life that started in the slaveholding South, continued in the rapidly industrializing northeast via her marriage to one of the most prominent railroad engineers of the time, and which took her and her family to St. Petersburg, Russia, Europe and London, where she became her son’s unofficial art-world manager and agent. “Whistler’s Mother” was published by Yale University Press. Amazon offers it for $18.

Sutherland was previously a guest on The MAN Podcast in 2014 to discuss “Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake,” his terrific biography of the artist. Yale University Press has just released it in paperback. Amazon sells it for $15.

On the second segment, Otobong Nkanga discusses her work on the occasion of “Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition, a survey of her work which continues through September 2, was curated by Omar Kholeif. Nkanga, who was born in Nigeria and who lives and works in Antwerp, makes paintings, drawings, tapestry, installation and gives performances that explore the history and impact of colonialism, especially in Africa. Much of her work addresses the way such histories have impacted the land, and the viewer’s likely connections with that past. She has performed at or her work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum Arnhem, the Moderna Museet and the Centre Pompidou, and Documenta 14. The exhibition catalogue was published by Delmonico Prestel. Amazon offers it for $25.

Air date: May 10, 2018.

James Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1871.

James Whistler, Harmony in Blue-Green — Monlight (later retitled Nocturne: Blue and Silver — Chelsea), 1871.

James Whistler, At the Piano, 1859.

James Whistler, Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland, 1870-73.

James Whistler, Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle, 1873.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Artist’s Mother Seated at a Table Looking Right Three-Quarter Length, ca 1631.

Otobong Nkanga, Sell out 2% — You are beautiful but you will always remind me of violence — Compressor Compressed, 1999.

Otobong Nkanga, Contained Measures of land, 2008.

Otobong Nkanga, Study for “Crisis” (More land), 2008.

Otobong Nkanga, Social Consequences II—Constructivism, 2009.

Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling, 2014.

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