San Francisco

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Shea and Her Daughter Zion Sipping Water from their Freshwater Spring, Newton, Mississippi, 2017, gelatin silver print, 24 × 20". From the series “Flint Is Family II,” 2017–19.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Shea and Her Daughter Zion Sipping Water from their Freshwater Spring, Newton, Mississippi, 2017, gelatin silver print, 24 × 20". From the series “Flint Is Family II,” 2017–19.

“Soft Power”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Shea and Her Daughter Zion Sipping Water from their Freshwater Spring, Newton, Mississippi, 2017, gelatin silver print, 24 × 20". From the series “Flint Is Family II,” 2017–19.

WHEN POLITICAL SCIENTIST Joseph Nye coined the term “soft power” soon after President Ronald Reagan’s final term, he framed it as the use of “attractive” policies and cultural values to expand political influence. But even Nye acknowledged that soft power was often paired with considerably harder tactics of persuasion. Under Reagan, armed-forces budgets increased to nearly triple their Vietnam War–era levels. Soft power would shake your hand with the velvet glove of Hollywood knowing that the iron fist of military domination was just behind, ready to help support US corporate interests and suppress left-wing governments.

In her sweeping show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art titled after Nye’s term, curator Eungie Joo has brought together visual artists who critically engage with dominant cultures, using the “soft power” of art to, among other ambitions, counter the toxic

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