Tate Names Michael Wellen Curator of International Art

This article was originally posted at artnet on 10.28.16

Michael Wellen has been tapped as the new curator of International Art at Tate, bringing a particular emphasis on fostering the representation of Latin American art both in Tate’s collection as well as its exhibition programming at Tate Modern. Wellen is slated to begin this December, Tate announced yesterday.

Wellen will be making the move to London from Texas, where he has been working in various curatorial positions and capacities for over 10 years. He spent the past five years as Assistant Curator of Latin American and Latino Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), working in collaboration with Mari Carmen Ramírez on exhibitions, acquisitions, research, and a variety of publications related to the MFAH Latin American Art Department.

Throughout his time at MFAH, Wellen co-curated numerous well-received exhibitions, including “Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona” (2013–2014), and “Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America” (2015–2016). Prior to his post in Houston, Wellen was in Austin for five years, working as researcher and writer with the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas.

In addition to this, Wellen has also been a visiting lecturer at Rice University in Houston where he designed and taught the seminar Latin American Art and Film Since 1960.

Wellen earned his BA in History and Anthropology from Rutgers University, and holds an MA and PhD in Modern and Contemporary Art with a focus on Latin America, both from the University of Texas at Austin.

feelings

Elee Kraljii Gardiner | The disclaimer tucked into the ISBN page made me laugh out loud: Disclaimer: The word “my” in the title is meant to signify the author—as such no claims are made on anyone else’s.

Nick Flynn | The disclaimer is playful, I hope, but also deadly serious—I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble, over the years, imagining that I can truly understand the inner life of someone else, especially those closest to me.

taken from an interview for radar poetry

interview w/ monica youn

This interview was originally posted at BrazosBookstore.com on 10/21/16

There are exceptions to everything but for the most part, living artists are the be all, end all for me. I like the connection and contradiction between a piece of art and the person behind it. The only type of surprise I savor: the one where somewhere in Houston, I am waiting to hear the speaking voice of a writer I don’t know.

The first time I try to call Monica Youn, she asks if we can reschedule. “I’m sort of having a baby crisis,” she says, and at the time, knowing nothing about Youn outside of BLACKACRE, the thing I think is that I am not a mother—meaning yes, of course. That world comes before this other one.

Three days later, I start by asking her to tell me about her book, which is maybe the only question I ask every person I interview. Since the title draws on legal jargon for a hypothetical estate—“Blackacre” is the equivalent to Jane or John Doe as applied to physical property—I suppose I had a mild expectation she would say something about that, or allude to her years as a lawyer.

She starts three times. “It’s not about one thing in particular,” she says. Then she offers the poet version: “Coming to terms with necessity and to what extent the imagination can transform what is given and to what extent the imagination has to come up against the limits of what is possible.”

There is a pause while I finish typing the last thing she says but she takes the moment as though I am standing there with a microphone, eyes big and face shiny. Here is the heart of it: “my own inexperience dealing with infertility and its aftermath, especially the shame that surrounds the concept of infertility.”

This is what it means to talk to a living poet about her work and hearing what it means to her. Because Youn, on paper, is elusive and dense and steeped in structures that I never studied in school. She is, to say it plain, too smart for me. There is no amount of time that I could have studied her meditations on Villon’s fabled hanged man, “Epiphyte,” and cycle of various -acres and found a baby at the bottom of it, unless she told me it was there.

The kaleidoscope of emotion is easier to speak about now that the baby is two, BLACKACRE is out, and she enjoys teaching at Princeton. But it was not always like this, and the book is a physical talisman that represents the five years her and her husband spent trying. “At the same time I was going through this issue with fertility, I was coming to the end of my legal career,” Youn says. “I was coming to an end of a lot of things in my life.”

It is one thing to choose not to produce children; the inability is the ultimate female failure—at least, according to certain stigmas. Youn and her husband, during this process, were “required to deal with a lot of side taboos in the States but also in Korea, where my family is from.” In the end, Youn and her husband decided to use a donor egg, and Youn tells me that the pregnancy itself was a positive experience.

The egg donor process, pregnancy, and writing happened in tandem. “I wanted to get all that darkness out of my system before I became a mother,” Youn says. The memory is still there, of course, and Youn acknowledges that. But better to focus on and try to understand or weave through that before needing to jump headlong into this other thing.

On the top of the questions I never ask is what the writer hopes readers will find in her book, but it seemed like a good question to ask Youn, given that the inspiration for the book and my experience of the book were so different. “You know, after readings, women come up to me and they tell me about their experiences with infertility and they’re always speaking in whispers,” Youn says. “They’re personally ashamed in a way that they wouldn’t be ashamed of another medical issue. And I think part of the reason I wrote this book, even though it was quite difficult to be this public about something this personal, is that I want to sort of start a conversation about that shame and what it’s about, and to try to dismantle it.”

Right away, I think of Lacy Johnson and her memoir THE OTHER SIDE and how it was published at a time when America was beginning to open up conversation about rape and sexual abuse. It went on to be a finalist for an Edgar Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. BLACKACRE has been longlisted for this year’s National Book Award for poetry, following her previous collection IGNATZ, which was an NBA finalist.

“Perhaps [BLACKACRE] would have been different if I wrote it at a different time during the process,” Youn says. “I wrote it when I knew there would be a happy ending.”

ELEGY WITH GROWN FOLKS’ MUSIC

“I Wanna Be Your Lover” comes on the kitchen radio
and briefly, your mother isn’t your mother—
just like, if the falsetto is just right, a black man in black
lace panties isn’t a faggot, but a prince,
a prodigy—and the woman with your hometown
between her legs shimmies past the eviction notice
burning on the counter and her body moves like she never
even birthed you. The voice on the radio pleas,
“I wanna be the only one that makes you come
running.” Some songs take women places men cannot
follow. Spinning, she looks at but doesn’t see you,
spinning, she sings lyrics too fast for you to pursue,
spinning, she don’t have time for questions like:
What is this nasty song and where did she learn
to dance like that and why, and who is this high-pitched
bitch of a man who can sing like a woman and turn
your mother not into your mother but a woman,
not even a woman, but a box-braided black girl, a fast
girl, a chick, a Vanity 6, and how far away she is from you
right here in the same living room, dancing
with the song’s hook in her throat. And you hate
the voice coming through the radio because another
sissy has snatched your dreams and run off with them
and because you’re young and don’t know the difference
between abandoned and alone just like your mother’s
heart won’t know the difference between beat
and attack. She will be dead in a decade and maybe
you already know what you’re losing without knowing
how, but you’re just a boy for now and your mother
is just a woman, just a girl, body swaying, fingers
snapping and snakes in her blood.
saeed jones