Brandon Truett is a Humanities Teaching Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD in 2020. He is currently working on a book project that investigates the transnationality and transhistoricity of the Spanish Civil War through visual, literary, and material cultures.
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).
For their final writing assignment in a course on contemporary art, my students were required to analyze a single artwork from the last sixty or so years. The point was to encourage them to apply the theories of visuality that we’d studied throughout the quarter, and the assignment had one nonnegotiable stipulation: the artwork must be accessible somewhere in Chicago, where our class was held.