Dear Friends,

Since closing our doors on March 13, we have been asking: how can we begin to imagine a future we can barely glimpse and what will be our role in it? And what are the best ways for us to meaningfully present art and ideas while under quarantine and at a time of formidable civic unrest? More recently those questions have taken on complex and urgent imperatives as we take in increasingly fraught news of tragic and heinous uses of authority and power and witness civilian resistance to police overreach.

I would be remiss to not use this platform to make explicit my personal, as well as the gallery’s commitment, to denounce systemic racism and violence against Black communities. During this time of tremendous global upheaval, with each of us navigating this unprecedented virus pandemic, state violence against protestors, and an uncertain future, I am wishing you strength and love. It is within this collective unhinging that we grieve for the many we have lost, comfort those who are sick, and call for an end to injustices. 

 In our upside down world, many have been thrown into the middle of a devastating public health crisis while navigating moral confusion in the face of a harsh biopolitics. Frontline medical professionals, essential workers, and families overwhelmed by illness or death are living in extreme realities. Still others are balancing social distancing recommendations or defying curfews as they gather to express their dissent and outrage. 

The “Great Pause” suggests that this is a time for reflection on big questions—economic inequality, climate change, or the rise in the abuse of power in a slowed down world. Our norms, and our assumptions appear to be falling away and the ground under our feet feels wobbly, cracks in the façade are rapidly growing. An economic downturn is looming, the health care system is being stressed tested, racial divides are ever more apparent and the sheer scale of the pandemic burdens our daily decisions. For many, life's changes are happening at a dizzying pace. It is as if we are standing still and running as fast as we can at the same time, with only faint clues from history, community, and solidarity to guide us.

 It is in times like these that art is especially valuable. Maybe it delivers its magic through the internet, from balconies, and even via live, public, socially distanced performances—maybe the painting, the poem, the dance, the film soothes the soul or challenges the intellect. As we search around for reflections of our humanity, it may be found in the embrace of a familiar art work or an encounter with a new or unfamiliar genre that lifts and carries you off to new places. Yet some may ask if art can survive the chaos of our time.  

In the midst of this existential present, the Wallach has responded by shifting to online exhibitions, interviews, interactive classes, and expanding our digital archive. On June 12, the Wallach organized Uptown People's Assembly: Facing the Raging Pandemics, a 12-hour participatory live stream featuring the voices of Upper Manhattan communities. With this message we are introducing a new interview series on our website, Practice and Process, where we share candid conversations with artists, curators, and cultural leaders. The first group of interviews are with three artists—Amina Menia, Fethi Sahraoui, Massinissa Selmani—who participated in our fall 2019 exhibition, Waiting for Omar Gatlato: Contemporary Art from Algeria and Its Diaspora, and its curator Natasha Marie Llorens.

As a prelude to our next exhibition Uptown Triennial 2020, more interviews with artists, will be available on our website soon. This roundup of more than 20 incredibly talented artists, many who live or work in Upper Manhattan, features painting, photography, video, and sound installations inspired by and engaging with the Harlem Renaissance in its centennial year.

While working remotely, I have also been busy planning for the future. Following Uptown Triennial 2020, we will present The Protest and The Recuperation, an exhibition focused on perspectives and responses to the global phenomenon of mass protest, as well as recuperative strategies of resistance, from the Arab Spring to COVID-19. 

The impact of COVID-19 and the current civic unrest will be felt far and wide for years to come. It has been painful to watch arts institutions close to my heart shut their doors, some maybe permanently, as artists, educators and museum workers struggle to reach their publics at such a critical time. We desperately need to embrace those who share and present artistic vision, creativity and wisdom — artists and the institutions who bring their messages to the world and enlighten our lives. If you are able, I hope you will join me in supporting an arts organization or social justice non-profit that you care deeply about by making a donation, joining as a member, or volunteering.

Please stay in touch by visiting the Wallach’s website and following our social media. We will continue to provide updates and online programming with the hashtag #WallachVirtualExperiences.

 I look forward to welcoming you back into the gallery in the not too distant future.

 

Sincerely,

Betti-Sue Hertz
Director and Chief Curator

Betti-Sue Hertz, Director and Chief Curator. Photo by Eileen Barroso.

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