Colloquium: Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law


Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 3:00pm to 5:00pm

The Department of History of Art & Architecture invites you to join AAAS Professor Sarah Lewis’ colloquium :

“Groundwork: Race and Aesthetics in the Era of Stand Your Ground Law" on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, from 3-5pm (Eastern).


Zoom link:;

How are artists, and how is the discipline of art history, responding to the hyper-visuality of racial injustices on American ground? A number of artists including Mark Bradford, Theaster Gates, Amy Sherald, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, and new landmarks such as the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial to Peace and Justice, have initiated a set of what I term “groundwork” aesthetics in the Stand Your Ground EraBy groundwork, I mean a set of aesthetic strategies through which the literal and figurative meaning of “ground” is destabilized productively to establish new conditions in the era of Stand Your Ground law. These laws define the right to self-defense, to claim the ground on which one stands if there is a perception of “reasonable threat.” The law disproportionately affects Black and Brown lives today. These artists ask: What does it mean to not be able to “stand your ground”? Is there methodological room in the discipline of art history to consider what we make of these artistic practices focused on bodies denied this upright position of self-sovereignty and agency? Beyond providing a new framework of analysis via groundwork, engaging with the meaning of the term “ground”—as both reason, fact, but also soil itself—to address the injustices wrought at our feet, this talk, based on a manuscript project and Art Journal article (Winter, 2020), lays out future steps for the discipline of art history and related fields to engage more decisively with the sociopolitical life that informs artistic production in the context of racial contestation.