Jack Weinstein ‘23 opened his first photography exhibition, The Art of Politics, on the second floor of Lutnick Library on Nov. 29. Through it, he tells the story of murals and other street art that he photographed in his hometown of Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd by police. The exhibit spotlights 16 of the 100 photographs he took of street art during the summer of 2020, when Minneapolis became an epicenter of the racial justice movement.
“Following George Floyd’s death, the Uptown Association invited artists from all across the Twin Cities area to come to Minneapolis to paint murals on the boards which were barricading businesses,” explained Weinstein in the exhibit’s opening presentation. “The exhibit just naturally started from me wanting to take pictures of my favorite ones, but as time went on and they began getting taken down, I realized that my pictures were documenting their existence.”
Though the political science major had been involved in exhibits through off campus organizations before, this was his first time curating an exhibit, as well as displaying his own work. Each picture is accompanied by a caption written by Weinstein that gives context and an explanation, allowing for greater comprehension.
Some of his favorite photographs in the exhibit included those that represented a specific point in time.
“The ones that are half-removed or half-completed are probably my favorite,” he said.
Weinstein said that he wanted viewers of the exhibition to walk away from it considering four major questions: Is there a difference between graffiti and the murals? Was some of this artwork just an attempt by business to commodify the movement? What place does art have in social movements? What do we do with the artwork when it’s time for the boards to come off of buildings?
While he noted that he did not have answers for all of these questions, they were all things he asked himself while taking pictures. In his presentation, he spoke about the criminalization and racialization of graffiti, the danger of performative activism through artwork, businesses that used the murals to self promote, and potential places for the artwork to go once removed.
“Is it simply thrown out? Is it donated to museums? Are they auctioned off? Where do they go if someone buys them?” Weinstein wondered.
After his presentation’s conclusion, Weinstein led the audience out to his exhibit to answer questions and talk about his curation process.
As a first-time curator and exhibitionist, Weinstein encountered some challenges in creating his exhibit.
“In setting up the exhibit the most difficult thing was first choosing which photos to include and, second, making sure that the context I wanted was present,” he said. “I wanted viewers of the exhibit to be encouraged to think about the murals critically, not only as works of art, but as political objects. Making sure that came across was extremely difficult.”
Even the work’s title carries a hidden meaning, Weinstein explained.
“I think we’re unfortunately at a place where human rights issues are political, and so are these murals,” he said. “The title was meant to draw attention to the political nature of the art and to the idea that the art has a purpose and political implications aside from its purpose that, as a political science major, are very interesting to think about.”
Weinstein referenced the June 2021 killing of Winston Smith, Jr. by police as a new wave of the racial justice movement in Minneapolis, explaining that it inspired another round of murals and artwork.
“I think people, including myself, have been looking back on the neighborhood’s response with a more critical eye and looking at the ways in which the murals were inadequate, to say the least,” Weinstein said.
Jack Weinstein’s exhibit, The Art of Politics, will be on display in the Wall Gallery on Level 2 of Lutnick Library until Jan. 30, 2022.