June 24, 2021

The Protest and The Recuperation

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University

Hank Willis Thomas, Strike (detail), 2018. Stainless steel with mirrored finish. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Rachael Haynes, Climate Targets, 2021. Ink and pencil on watercolor paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Oliver Ressler, Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Code Rood (still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist, àngels barcelona, and The Gallery Apart.

Sreshta Rit Premnath. Kettling, 2021. Steel, emergency blankets, foam, plaster. Courtesy of the artist.

Chow Chun Fai, Taxi, from the series Portraits from Behind, 2020. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Exit.

Eugenia Vargas-Pereira, from the series “Tus ojos cuentan la historia (Your Eyes Tell the Story),” 2019. Color photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Josué Rivas, from the series “Standing Strong,” 2016. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Artists: Khalid Albaih, Lara Baladi, Sharon Chin, Chow Chun Fai, Rachael Haynes, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Oliver Ressler, Josué Rivas, Hank Willis Thomas, and Eugenia Vargas-Pereira

The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts is pleased to open The Protest and The Recuperation curated by Betti-Sue Hertz, the Gallery’s director and chief curator. It is the Wallach’s first exhibition to open to the general public since March 2020.

A survey of artistic perspectives on, and responses to, the global phenomena of mass protest and the recuperative strategies of resistance, the exhibition focuses on art that reveals the visual and performative aesthetics of progressive protests. Further, it is an exploration of what art can contribute to our understanding of the necessity of public gathering as a strategy for effecting change. Through participation, observation, interpretation, representation, and appropriation, the ten artists present nuanced perspectives on the value of protests as aggregate expressions of thousands, even millions, of individual participants.

Conceptually, the exhibition begins with the Arab Spring’s outburst of dissent and local organizing networks in 2011, which put pressure on authoritarian regimes, and continues with resistance movements that followed that year, including Occupy Wall Street. From 2011 to 2020 the world witnessed an extraordinary period of revolt that spread quickly from site to site through social media. The works on view, broadly speaking, are inspired by mass protests—as distinguished from activist art and activism, per se. The artists align themselves with the commitment, creativity, and ingenuity of the protestors and reformulate their actions into art forms that, after the fact of the temporality of street actions, maintain a purposeful, sustained “object-ness.”

The works in The Protest and The Recuperation highlight the aesthetic aspects of protest, weave cultural specificities into their tactics, and represent expressions of willfulness and determination. While not created expressly as acts of protest, they are an homage to the corporeal forms of collective advocacy emerging from the populace and to the importance of the call for action that each references. These works amplify actions and infuse them with poetics and the deepening potential of the slow viewing of art. The works share evidence that the artist who is immersed in the protest scene—an insider, a participant observer, a chronicler—is also someone who propels rights and values forward through the syncretic, thoughtful, and conscientious process of artmaking. Self-consciously inside history, these artists honor it and its legacies as building blocks for the future.

Hertz and Premnath co-edited an illustrated, 160-page publication highlighting exhibition works which contextualize the social movements that the protests represent long after the mass demonstrations have ended. Anthony Downey contributes a feature essay and Jonathan Guyer, Fiona Lee, Sophia Suk-Mun Law, Jacqueline Millner, Alpesh Kantilal Patel, Barnaby Drabble, Fred Ritchin, Quincy Flowers, and Marcela A. Fuentes each contribute an essay on an artist in the exhibition. Beth Stryker offers an interview with Baladi.

The Wallach presents an array of online content including a digital exhibition, virtual tour, and artist interviews. On view until August 14, the gallery is free, open to the general public on Fridays and Saturdays, and also open to Columbia students, faculty, and staff on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Online reservations are required. For more information on the exhibition, including gallery hours, gallery visit registration links, and catalog order information, visit

The Wallach Art Gallery's exhibition program is made possible with support from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Endowment Fund, the gallery’s patrons, and additional support from Columbia University.

Media Contact: Lewis Long, lpl2121 [​at​] / T +1 202 257 6800

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.