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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."


What Price Diversity?



Since the spring of 2018, I have been pondering Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to "diversify" New York City's three specialized or "elite" public high schools by getting the state legislature in Albany to abolish the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) that is required under the Hecht-Calandra Act of 1971 for all students who wish to enter these high schools.


De Blasio's argument is that these tests prevent all but a very few African American  and Latino children from being invited to attend these schools, and that such de facto segregation makes a mockery of the city's professed claims to be truly liberal and democratic.


He wants to diversify the student bodies of these schools by increasing the number of African American and Latino children enrolled in them even if these children don't perform well enough on the SHSATs to be admitted on the same basis as the white and Asian-American children who currently occupy almost all of the seats at these schools.


This places me in a quandary.

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Helen Frankenthaler, Las Mayas, 1958.  Oil on canvas, 100 x 43.255 inches (254 x 109.9 cm).  Courtesy Yares  Art.   Artwork by Helen Frankenthaler © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York




 Helen Frankenthaler was a great artist and a sympathetic personality – for me, at any rate. Though we were never that close, I feel privileged to have known her.  When I met her, on the occasion of her retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1969, she was at the peak of her form and the work bowled me over.  I wish I could say the same of "Helen Frankenthaler: Selected Paintings" at Yares Art (through May 18).  Still, despite the problems inherent in putting together a show of work by an artist now eight years dead, there is much at Yares to be enjoyed and appreciated (or at least there was, when I last saw the show on March 27). Read More 

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