Almost as soon as they began corresponding in 1930, T. S. Eliot told Emily Hale that he treasured her letters—not just the words, but the paper itself: “I cannot bear to be separated from your letters at present, not so much for need to refer to the contents, some of which I repeat to myself often during the day and night, but for the touch of the paper and sight of the writing.”
At the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York City––a show attuned to the intense political divisions and racial tensions in the United States today––one artist stood out for her reuse of images of resistance from various moments in the history of modernity, marked by figures such as Marx and Engels, Muhammad Ali, and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Celeste Dupuy-Spencer’s Veterans Day (2016), a large oil painting on linen, stages these images in a domestic interior space with yellow wallpaper speckled with flowers and a vintage stereo emanating visual notes that unfurl throughout the room (fig. 1).
Although Mina Loy consorted with nearly every historical avant-garde movement, she was contained by none and is rarely mentioned in their histories. She’s not alone in this regard. Canonical histories and theories of the avant-garde typically marginalize the work of women, people of color, queer, and disabled artists. Despite significant efforts to articulate the importance of gender, sexuality, and race to the avant-garde, scholars have yet to offer a comprehensive theory of the avant-garde that accounts for the experiences of marginalized artists who were often ambivalent about claiming affiliation with white, male-dominated movements.