Sweetest taboo

Pub date August 20, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

PREVIEW The taboo has always had a special place in my heart. As a pre-adolescent, I was given a list of banned books from a rogue librarian and I hunted down and read every one of them. It may have seemed odd to find an 11-year-old black boy reading the likes of John Rechy’s City of Night (Grove, 1963) and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (Olympia/Grove, 1959), but these verboten tomes, along with the librarian’s free beer and porn, served as an illicit gateway out of my little coal-mining town into the larger, lustier world. If not for the innocence-stealing pederast posing as the coolest adult I knew, I might still be in that town, feeling like I was missing something but never knowing what. In short, banned books saved my life: I never would have read a single one had they not been banned.

That’s why it’s exciting, even titilutf8g, that the San Francisco Center for the Book, in collaboration with the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, presents "Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship." The 63 installation, multimedia, and graphic artists showcased at the two sites don’t so much address the issue of banned books as celebrate their favorites, which happened to have been banned somewhere at one time or another — and what great book hasn’t? Among those praising the forbidden at the Center for the Book are Enrique Chagoya, who offers a 2000 diptych to Burroughs, and ex–Black Panther propagandist Emory Douglas, who brings Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970) to light.

BANNED AND RECOVERED: ARTISTS RESPOND TO CENSORSHIP Through Nov. 26. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro, SF. (415) 565-0545, www.sfcb.org. Also Sept. 5–Dec. 31. Tues.–Sat., noon–5:30 p.m. Reception Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m. African American Museum and Library at Oakland, 659 14th St., Oakl. (510) 637-0200, www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLO