Reinberger’s T ITLE TB D Takes on New Meaning Post-COVID

Emily Mae Smith, The Studio, Mound Land.

T ITLE TB D at the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Reinberger Gallery was scheduled for spring but postponed due to COVID-19. The exhibition is now on view, and information about how to see the artwork is available at

The show examines the artist’s life in 2020 and features work by ADMIN, Adult Kindergarten, Thomas Barger, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, GenderFail, Jeff Kasper, Ariane Loze, Natalia Nakazawa and Emily Mae Smith.

Gallery Director Nikki Woods discussed T ITLE TB D with curator Meghana Karnik.

Woods: In what ways has the show transformed?

Karnik: Pre-COVID, it was hard to gauge whether students would be receptive to the anti-professional themes of the show, which counter myths of being an artist. Adult Kindergarten recommended keeping the placeholder title, T ITLE TB D, to highlight the grand narrative. I like how unapologetic it is about embracing failure, uncertainty and change. For the classes of 2020 and 2021, the permission to fail, hold leadership accountable, and build a new world is needed.

Woods: What were your criteria for selecting artists?

Karnik: Each has a compelling narrative located in rage, refusal, marginalization, or exploitation. Their barriers are not the same, but together, the artists invite people into their survival journeys. Playful ways of expressing dissent were important to me, as were supportive approaches to conflict and community.

Woods: To me, T ITLE TB D is about the artist’s relationship with precarity, inequity and conflict. How do these inform an artist’s work and life?

Karnik: I think art school education is disconnected from how artists live and work, and specifically, the experiences of BIQTPOC. The pedagogy is still connected to the mythic solo genius toiling in their studio. It’s not real, nor does it set students up for even the most conservative forms of art world success. I’ve never conducted a studio visit the way I was taught to engage in critiques. There’s a real predator-prey dynamic that has a silencing effect rather than a sense of care and deep listening.

T ITLE TB D affirms what institutions won’t tell you: that working in the arts means you deeply love what you do, that your love of work makes you vulnerable to exploitation, and that your love can be displaced by the anxiety of time and productivity. The show highlights topics not discussed: the importance of mental health, conflict transformation, righteous rage, and community care.


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