Dread Scott Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. His work is exhibited across the US and internationally. In 1989, his art became the center of national controversy over its transgressive use of the American flag, while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. President G.H.W. Bush called his art “disgraceful” and the entire US Senate denounced and outlawed this work. Dread became part of a landmark Supreme Court case when he and others defied the new law by burning flags on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Dread’s studio is now based in Brooklyn.
His work has been included in exhibitions at New York’s MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Jack Shainman Gallery, NY, and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town, South Africa. His performance work has been presented at BAM in Brooklyn and on the streets of Harlem, NY. Work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum. It has been featured on the cover of Artforum magazine and the front page of NYTimes.com. Dread is a recipient of a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship and grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and the Open Society Institute. He works in a range of media from performance and photography to screen-printing and video.
Dread plays with fire—metaphorically and sometimes literally—as when he burned $171 on Wall Street and encouraged those with money to add theirs to the pyre. His work asks viewers to look soberly at America’s past and our present. Writing about a recent banner project, Angelica Rogers wrote in the New York Times “…it was difficult to look away from the flag’s blocky, capitalized type. ‘A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday.’ It shouted the words so matter-of-factly that I felt myself physically flinch.”
He is on the board of the New York Foundation for the Arts and is an Academician in the National Academy of Design. Dread is currently working on Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a community engaged performance that will reenact the largest rebellion of enslaved people in American History.
I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. I look towards an era without exploitation or oppression. I don’t accept the political structures, economic foundation, social relations and governing ideas of America. This perspective has empowered me to make artworks that view leaders of slave revolts as heroes, challenge American patriotism as a unifying value, burn the US Constitution (an outmoded impediment to freedom), and position the police as successors to lynch mob terror.
In 1989, my artwork What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?, a conceptual artwork for audience participation, became the subject of national conversation over its transgressive use of the American flag. President G.H.W Bush called it “disgraceful” and the Senate denounced and outlawed it. This public conversation confirmed my belief that art, including fine art, could be part of changing the world.
I work in a range of media: performance, installation, video, photography, printmaking and painting. Two threads that connect them are: an engagement with significant social questions and a desire to push formal and conceptual boundaries as part of contributing to artistic development. My projects are presented in venues ranging from museum galleries to street corners. I bring contemporary art to a broad public and the audience is often an active element of the art.
Dread Scott: Decision is a performance that reflects on America, a country whose democracy is rooted in slavery. These roots are woven into the fabric of the country and its founding documents. During the performance I read from the text of 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott Decision while a group of 4 nude Black performers was guarded and controlled two live German Shepherd dogs, which dogs barked continually. The audience was part of the work and had to pass through the men to go into a “voting booth” one at a time and respond to a moral question. Money to Burn is a performance that was enacted on Wall Street in 2010. Starting with $250, I burned singles, fives, tens and twenties, one bill at a time, while encouraging others to join me with their own money. The transgressive act of burning my own money alluded to the absurdity of a system that treats life necessities as commodities and is based on profit—it’s crazy to burn money but it is the height of rationality to have a market where billions can vanish.