Charles L. Davis II begins by outlining the development, conceptualization and organization behind the Museum of Modern Art’s upcoming exhibition “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America” (February 20-May 31, 2021). He describes the advisory committee’s discussions of issues, context and events.
Then he presents arguments from an essay he is contributing to the exhibition, proposing an alternative Black modernism. Davis stresses the importance of introducing an architectural lineage for projects that are excluded from the tradition of avant-garde architecture promoted by MOMA. He describes the work of production designer Wynn Thomas as an example. Davis argues that changed definitions, lead to changes in what gets preserved and archived, which is then reflected in practices, institutions, and teaching.
From 30:00 through 56:00, Davis and Mira Henry lead a Zoom discussion on issues raised by Davis’s presentation, including alternative narratives of modernism, the work of Bernard Rudofsky and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy.
At 56:30, Mira Henry introduces Michael Osman and Victor Jones who respond to a draft of Davis’s “Reconstructions” essay, touching on issues of reforming, abolishing or ignoring the avant-garde, the dominant white culture of the academy’s indifference to Blackness as part of the American experience. Jones proposes that a Black project in architecture should ignore the issues valued by the white avant-garde elite. Davis looks for a more equitable ecosystem with greater reciprocity. The conversation then focuses on architectural schools, the need for a pluralist conversation. Davis points out the non-reciprocity of some post-George Floyd theorizing, which appropriates without acknowledgement the work of theorists of race and place. Mira Henry points out a disconnect between the discourses concerning Black visual art and those concerning Black architecture. The ensuing conversation contrast art history and architectural history, and their role in changing architectural institutions.