An Incomplete History of Protest looks at how artists from the 1940s to the present have confronted the political and social issues of their day. Whether making art as a form of activism, criticism, instruction, or inspiration, the featured artists see their work as essential to challenging established thought and creating a more equitable culture. Many have sought immediate change, such as ending the war in Vietnam or combating the AIDS crisis. Others have engaged with protest more indirectly, with the long term in mind, hoping to create new ways of imagining society and citizenship.
No exhibition can approximate the activism now happening in the streets and online, and no collection can account fully for the methodological, stylistic, and political diversity of artistic address. Instead, the exhibition offers a sequence of historical case studies focused on particular moments and themes—from questions of representation to the fight for civil rights—that remain relevant today. At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.
An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017 is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection; Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator; and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator; with David Kiehl, curator emeritus; and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.
Born in Zimbabwe, Hockley grew up in Washington, D.C., from the age of two. When it was time to attend college, she headed to New York where she earned a B.A. in art history from Columbia University. She is a Ph.D. candidate in art history, theory and criticism at the University of California, San Diego.
A course at Columbia introduced her to art history and helped crystallize a career path that merged her interests. “We talked about manifest destiny, slavery, genocide of native populations—and we talked about all of this in relation to American art in the 18th and 19th centuries,” says Hockley. “That was a really profound moment for me, because I’ve always been interested in issues of race, gender and equity.”
Hockley has worked with the Brooklyn Museum’s collection and been involved with the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee. She has also moderated public discussions with artists, and contributed to exhibition catalogs and art publications. She serves on the boards of Art Matters and Recess. She began her career as a curatorial assistant at the Studio Museum in Harlem and has also worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
In 2015, Hockley made artnet News’s global list of 25 Women Curators Shaking Things Up and she was among Cultured magazine’s 10 Young Curators to Watch in 2016. Rujeko Hockley is now an Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum. Hockley is one of the curators for An Incomplete History of Protest.