Up Against the Real: Black Mask from Art to Action

Book Launch and Discussion at Printed Matter Chelsea
March 30, 2023

Please join us for the launch of Up Against the Real: Black Mask From Art to Action by Nadja Millner-Larsen. Up Against the Real follows the history of the anti-art group Black Mask and its acrimonious relationship to the New York art world of the 1960s. The group shut down the Museum of Modern Art, fired blanks during a poetry reading, stormed the Pentagon during an antiwar protest, and dumped garbage into the fountain at Lincoln Center. Black Mask published a Dadaist broadside until 1968, when it changed its name to Up Against the Wall Motherfucker (after a line in a poem by Amiri Baraka) and came to classify itself as “a street gang with analysis.”

Millner-Larsen will present the book in conversation with professor Tom McDonough, who writes, “In Up Against the Real, Millner-Larsen introduces us to Black Mask, a group of downtown New York anti-art saboteurs who blasted out of the world of experimental painting and cinema and onto the streets, insisting that the abstraction of late modernist painting heralded a new, liberatory, antirepresentational politics. With an acute understanding of the historical and theoretical stakes at play, Millner-Larsen restores their cultural revolution to its rightful place alongside the Situationists, the Young Lords, and other exemplars of ‘60s radicalism.” With an introduction by Lindsay Caplan.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Nadja Millner-Larsen Nadja Millner-Larsen is a visiting assistant professor in the Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement program at New York University. Nadja’s writing has appeared in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Critical Correspondence, Grey Room, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Art Monthly, Triple Canopy, and various exhibition catalogues. Nadja was an NEH postdoctoral scholar at the Getty Research Institute and a Helena Rubinstein fellow in critical studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program. Before joining NYU, she taught in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.

Tom McDonough Tom McDonough is a professor of art history at Binghamton University, where he teaches histories of modern art and 20th-century French cultural and intellectual life. He writes frequently on contemporary art for journals and exhibition catalogues. His books include the anthology Boredom (Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, 2017), The Situationists and the City (Verso, 2009), and “The Beautiful Language of My Century” (MIT Press, 2007).

Lindsay Caplan Lindsay Caplan is an Assistant Professor at Brown University where she teaches modern and contemporary art history. Her writing has appeared in Grey Room, ARTMargins, Piano b, Art in America, The Scholar & Feminist Online, and e-flux, as well as exhibition catalogues and edited collections. She has received fellowships from The Center of the Humanities at The CUNY Graduate Center (2010-14) and the American Council for Learned Societies (2015-16); and she was a Helena Rubinstein fellow in critical studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program. Her book Arte Programmata: Freedom, Control, and the Computer in 1960s Italy received a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association and was recently published by University of Minnesota Press.

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