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Saturation: Race, Art, and the Circulation of Value

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Controversies involving race and the art world are often discussed in terms of diversity and representation—as if having the right representative from a group or a larger plurality of embodied difference would absolve art institutions from historic forms of exclusion. This book offers another approach, taking into account not only questions of racial representation but also issues of structural change and the redistribution of resources. In essays, conversations, discussions, and artist portfolios, contributors confront in new ways questions at the intersection of art, race, and representation.

The book uses saturation as an organizing concept, in part to suggest that current paradigms cannot encompass the complex realities of race. Saturation provides avenues to situate race as it relates to perception, science, aesthetics, the corporeal, and the sonic. In color theory, saturation is understood in terms of the degree to which a color differs from whiteness. In science, saturation points describe not only the moment in which race exceeds legibility, but also how diversity operates for institutions. Contributors consider how racialization, globalization, and the production and consumption of art converge in the art market, engaging such topics as racial capitalism, the aesthetics of colonialism, and disability cultures. They examine methods for theorizing race and representation, including “aboutness,” which interprets artworks by racialized subjects as being “about” race; modes of unruly, decolonized, and queer visual practices that resist disciplinary boundaries; and a model by which to think with and alongside blackness and indigeneity.

Copublished by the New Museum.

408 pages; 6.75 in x 9.5 in; 77 color and, 22 b&w illustrations; published May 2020.

Book Launch and Conversation about Art and Politics
On Tuesday, December 8, please join us as we celebrate the launch of Saturation: Race, Art and the Circulation of Value (MIT Press, 2020) with a special online discussion featuring contributing artists Xandra Ibarra, Kent Monkman, and Tourmaline, moderated by artist and scholar Richard Fung, and with an introduction by co-editors C. Riley Snorton and Hentyle Yapp. This program is free, please RSVP here.