"In this book, Susan E. Cahan illuminates a discourse over inclusion that took place all over the country, and not just in visual art, but even in opera and ballet where the very presence of the black body became an issue. Her analysis reveals the museums' duplicity, confusion, and attempts to serve only their own interests. The names of excluded artists repeated in this book are shocking, as are the indications that curators claimed to have not known of people like Jacob Lawrence. Mounting Frustration is a most welcome means of cracking the silence and complacency around the retrenchment since activists opened the discourse on who owns culture."
(Thulani Davis, author of My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots
"A long overdue, well-researched history, citing heroes and villains, of the struggle waged by artists of color to get their work recognized by the white art establishment. Naming names, recounting specific battles, and giving an accurate picture of the inner workings of a dismissive museum bureaucracy determined to guard its Eurocentric heritage, Susan E. Cahan has done a remarkable job of reporting on a conflict that, despite some hard-won victories for artists, still simmers."
(Grace Glueck, art writer and critic)
"The history of cultural politics in America is one both of individual insights and collective initiatives, of attempts to grasp the meaning of deeply embedded social and economic inequalities, and the equally profound misunderstandings that have bedeviled most attempts to translate painfully slow changes in attitudes toward race and class into enduring changes in institutional structures. Susan E. Cahan's study of how American museums tried and largely failed to break this pattern in the 1960s and 1970s is a major contribution to the field of institutional critique. Unlike many, though, it is informed by a close analysis of personalities and events. It will be a touchstone both for scholars and those trying hard to avoid repeating mistakes of the past—especially those who were 'well-intentioned' but woefully inattentive to the harsh realities they sought to address."
(Robert Storr, artist, critic, curator, and Professor of Painting at the Yale School of Art)
"Using a number of interviews with artists and an analysis of internal museum documents, Cahan perfectly renders the tenor of those volatile times. The elites of the art museum world are brought to task for their misguided attempts at inclusiveness and subtle (and not-so-subtle) attempts to preserve the status quo. Anyone interested in American art and society will find plenty to ponder in this thoughtful work."
(Carolyn Mulac Booklist
"Cahan should be lauded for her meticulous investigations, starting her research in 1990, and conducting numerous interviews with the artists and administrators in question. She relays a taxonomical breadth of information that is as nauseating as it is intoxicating."
(Terence Trouillot Bomb
"This essential publication, focusing exclusively on New York City’s art museums in the wake of the civil rights movement, shines a revealing light on the artists, museum staff, and activists who were involved in the effort to force large art institutions to 'face artists’ demands for justice and equality.' . . . This thorough and unrelenting examination gives invaluable history as well as context for the present struggle to create and maintain diversity in art museums."
(Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"... [W]e owe Cahan a debt. American museums in the late 1960s and early '70s were suffused with the same racist assumptions and practices as other major social institutions. Many individuals within the cultural realm-curators, artists, critics, trustees and directors—acted disingenuously, even scandalously at times. While the prospect of a 'post-racial' society clearly continues to elude us in the era of Black Lives Matter, reexamining a selection of the exhibitions from a time of significant social upheaval can help us understand the ways in which we have changed, and how much further we have to go to achieve equality of opportunity and just representation."
(Steven C. Dubin Art in America
is likely a report more relevant than any CNN production. . . . Aside from simply telling a story, Cahan spent five years working as a senior curator and arts program director for the Collection of Eileen and Peter Norton and Peter Norton Family Foundation. There, she assisted the Nortons in their mission to support emerging black artists. She has also done more written work and service related to social inequalities in the art community."
(Zuri Ward Blavity
"[M]eticulously researched. . . . As Mounting Frustration persuasively establishes, major museums in the US have historically done a deplorable job of representing black artists, other artists of color, and women artists, who are tokenized by ever-churning cycles of celebration and dismissal—what Cahan calls 'waves'—in part because large art institutions are not only dependent on but impregnated with the ideology of the ruling class that funds them."
(Julia Bryan-Wilson Artforum
"Mounting Frustration comprises well-researched, elegantly crafted case studies of the museum world in New York City during the rise of the Black Power movement. Telling the stories from the perspective of someone who worked in the trenches, Cahan offers the kind of insights and perspectives available to only those who understand the inner workings of institutions. . . . this book is vital for any inquiry into US museums and how those museums continue to take shape. Her pointed and precise use of archival material makes this book not just a history but also a model for scholarly inquiry. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers."
(K. P. Buick Choice