No Necessary Correspondence

Whitney Independent Study Program Exhibition Catalog

Excerpt from “Introduction”

This past year, the Independent Study Program ran as it normally would—two seminars a week led by a rotating group of artists and scholars, including Ron Clark’s introductory reading seminars. This is a structure that was concretized in the early 1980s while the program was located at 384 Broadway, its longest home prior to 100 Lafayette, where twenty-two cohorts, including ours, have studied together. New York City real estate has caused the program to be peripatetic, necessitating a number of negotiations, reroutings, and infrastructural changes. All the while a number of things have stayed the same, or more accurately, traveled with Ron for many years throughout his fifty-five year tenure. It comes as no surprise that these fixtures (the chalkboard, the seminar table, the stacking chairs, among others) serve a pedagogical function as well as a locational one.

During our first seminar, Ron disclosed that this would be his final year directing the program. He elaborated on this in an informal speech at the annual holiday party where we gathered alongside members from the previous two cohorts that missed this tradition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some seminar leaders addressed Ron’s tenure in the first weeks of the program, and by the second semester, practically every one acknowledged his contributions on the occasion of his retirement—even through humble resistance. These took the form of prepared and improvised reflections at the beginning of their presentations and in a couple cases, seminar leaders would respond to the circumstances by presenting something outside of their typical approach.

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