A Conversation with Sam Durant: Political Art Has Consequences
by Daniel Grant
Los Angeles artist Sam Durant is accustomed to shining a spotlight on the
sins of the world in his installations, sculptures, and gallery-sized drawings
and photographs, but recently the spotlight turned on him. The creator of End
White Supremacy (2008) and Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument
Transpositions (2005) found himself under attack by members of the Dakota
tribe after his wood and metal Scaffold (2012) was installed earlier this year
in the Walker Art Center's sculpture garden. Durant was thinking about the
death penalty, but members of the tribe viewed the work, which resembles
a playground structure, as a painful reminder of the largest mass execution
in United States history, when 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in 1862 in nearby
Both Durant and Olga Viso, executive director of the Walker, issued statements
apologizing for insensitivity. Durant explained that he "made Scaffold
as a learning space for people like me, white people who have not suffered
the effects of a white supremacist society…It has been my belief that white
artists need to address issues of white supremacy and its institutional manifestations...see the entire article in the print version of November's Sculpture magazine.
Transcendental (Wheatley's Desk/
Emerson's Chair), 2016. Painted wood, 53.75 x 34.25 x 34.5 in.
(Fabricator: Dyson & Womack).