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Energy/Experimentation

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2006
Published by: Studio Museum in Harlem
Year published: 2006
Number of pages: 148
ISBN: 0-942949-31-5

image of Energy/Experimentation

Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction 1964 - 1980. Catalogue for exhibition held at the Studio Museum in Harlem, April 5 - July 2, 2006, featuring the work of Frank Bowling, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Ed Clark, Melvin Edwards, Fred Eversley, Sam Gilliam, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Tom Lloyd, Al Loving, Joe Overstreet, Howardena Pindell, Haywood Bill Rivers, Alma Thomas, Jack Whitten, and William T. Williams.

The exhibition attempted to critically address the perception that highly figurative art (dominated by explicit and/or implicit social/political narratives) dominated the work of Black artists in America from the mid 1960s onwards. The exhibition concerns itself with the period 1964 - 1980. The exhibition addresses, indeed, rebuts this perception by bringing together a wide range of work non-figurative and formalist practice by a number of prominent and important Black artists in America, made during the previously-mentioned time period. Such descriptions - of work being “non-figurative“ or “formalist“ - are perhaps misleading, or even inaccurate, as figurative elements, or elements that readily lend themselves to figurative readings, proliferate in the artists’ work. The exhibition was curated by Kellie Jones. Her essay in the catalogue opened with a provocative statement by one of the exhibitors, Sam Gilliam. “Figurative art doesn’t represent blackness any more than a non-narrative media-oriented kind of painting, like what I do.”

Within her catalogue essay, curator Jones introduced her essay as follows: “The period from the mid 1950s through the 1970s were a heady, if now almost mythic, time of struggle for African-American civil rights, African independence and youth and antiwar movements worldwide. In the history of art by African Americans, the time is known for the cultural production of the Black Arts Movement, whose images of resistance and African heritage have become icons of the era. Simultaneously, these artists protested for inclusion in American society.”

Certainly less discussed is the strong voice of abstraction that developed among black artists around this time in both painting and sculpture, a voice created by a critical mass of practitioners committed to experimentation with structure and materials. Flush with the scientific idealism of 1960s, they wrestled with new technologies, including light-and electronic - based works and explorations of recently invented acrylic paint. Their painted works were formal, holistic and engaged, to an extent, with geometry or primary forms in the manner of other contemporary trends, including post-painterly abstraction and systemic painting. They moved from the planar into considerations of “objecthood” that signalled minimalism. Most of them did not fall wholly into one camp or style, but rather their works were hybrids formed in unique, individual language of abstraction, at once iconic and emotional, optical and vibrant.

Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964 - 1980 focusses on a core group of artists who continued to stay true to these strategies over time. They also exhibit what Mary Schmidt Campbell has identified as a certain “aesthetic collegiality” characterized by similar experiments with opticality, materials, space, tools and surfaces.”

Catalogue (148 pages, colour throughout) features Acknowledgments by Thelma Golden, Director & Chief Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Curator’s Foreword by Kellie Jones, then several essays, as follows: To the Max: Energy and Experimentation, by Kellie Jones; Discrete Encounters: A Personal Recollection of the Black Art Scene of the 1970s, by Lowery Stokes Sims; Free Jazz and the Price of Black Musical Abstraction, by Guthrie P. Ramsay Jr; The Re-selection of Ancestors: Genealogy and American Abstraction’s Second Generation, by Courtney J. Martin. Followed by Black Artists and Abstraction: A Roundtable, featuring Louis Cameron, Melvin Edwards, Julie Mehretu, Lowery Stokes Sims, and William T. Williams, Moderator: Kellie Jones. The catalogue concludes with substantial Artists’ Biographies, Contributors’ Biographies, and finally, a checklist of Works in the Exhibition.

Related people + view all 22

»  Thelma Golden

Born, 1966 in Queens, New York

»  Tom Lloyd

Born, 1929. Died, 1996

»  Al/Alvin Loving

Born, 1935. Died, 2005

»  Julie Mehretu

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, date unknown

»  Joe Overstreet

Born, 1934 in Conehatta, MS, USA

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America
Official website: Studio Museum in Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem has for several decades been an important New York City venue for Black artists, primarily African-American ones. It is located in the heart of the Harlem district of New York, at 144 West 125th Street. A number of artists from elsewhere in the African Diaspora, including some UK-based practitioners, have shown work in exhibitions at this important visual arts venue. Studio Museum in Harlem was one of three venues for Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain 1966 - 1996. SMH exhibition dates were October 14, 1997 - March 15, 1998. It was the venue for Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964-1980, April 5 - July 2, 2006.

Related items + view all 9

click to show details of Black Romantic - catalogue

»  Black Romantic - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2002

click to show details of Chris Ofili | Afro Muses 1995 - 2005

»  Chris Ofili | Afro Muses 1995 - 2005

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2005

click to show details of Energy/Experimentation

»  Energy/Experimentation

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2006

click to show details of Transforming the Crown

»  Transforming the Crown

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1997

Exhibitions at this venue + view all 7

»  The Shadows Took Shape

Group show at Studio Museum in Harlem. 2013 - 2014

People who have appeared at this venue + view all 107

»  Howardena Pindell

Born, 1943 in Philadelphia, PA, USA

»  Haywood Bill Rivers

Born, 1922. Died, 2002

»  Alma Thomas

Born, 1886 - 1896 (probably 1891). Died, 1978

»  Jack Whitten

Born, 1939 in Bessemer, Alabama, USA

»  William T. Williams

Born, 1942 in Cross Creek, NC, USA

Black Romantic | The Figurative Impulse in Cont Af Am Art

Group show at Studio Museum in Harlem. 2002
Date: 25 April, 2002 until 23 June, 2002
Organiser: Studio Museum in Harlem

Black Romantic, subtitled The Figurative Impulse in Contemporary African-American Art was an exhibition hosted by The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2002 (April 25 - June 23). Featuring some 30 artists, namely: Alonzo Adams, Leroy Allen, Iana L. N. Amauba, Jules R. Arthur, III, Alexander Austin, Marlon H. Banks, Nina I. Buxenbaum, Clifford Darrett, Keith J. Duncan, Lawrence Finney, Gerald Griffin, James Hoston, Robert L. Jefferson, Oliver B. Johnson, Jr., Troy L. Johnson, Jonathan M. Knight, Jeanette Madden, Cal Massey, Dean Mitchell, Kadir Nelson, Leslie Printis, Robert V. Reid, Jonathon Romain, Philip Smallwood, Aj Smith, Toni L. Taylor, Hulbert Waldroup, Larry Walker, Shamek Weddle, and Kehinde Wiley.

In many ways, Black Romantic was a decidedly unfashionable exhibition, making it something of a bold and refreshing venture. Eschewing the dominant fare in contemporary art galleries, the exhibition presented the arguably conservative medium of figurative painting, by artists from across the US. The paintings evoked, in varying measure, idealism, romanticism, illustration, surrealism, naturalism, social realism, and racial uplift. In the accompanying catalogue, Black Romantic was described by Lowery Stokes Sims, the Studio Museum’s Director, as an exhibition in which “elements of desire, dreams, determination, and romance particular to the black experience present a viewpoint that is oppositional to modernist conceptualization of blackness flavoured by exogenous exoticism, stereotype, caricature, and even abstractionist manipulation.”

The exhibition catalogue was a very substantial publication. All 30 artists were represented by a full-page reproduction of their work, monochrome or colour, as appropriate. Other reproductions appeared throughout the contextualising texts and interviews. The written portions of the catalogue included interviews with four of the exhibition’s artists. The catalogue takes seriously its task of discussing work that has traditionally been disparaged or ignored by significant sections of the gallery network. To this end, a range of considered voices and opinions are marshalled throughout these texts. Witness for example, Valerie Cassel:

“…Black Romanticism should not be dismissed as fictionalized nostalgia. Neither can it be categorically noted as the remnants of black empowerment and the effects of federal funding in disenfranchised urban centers. Black Romanticism, contemporarily speaking, engages aspects of a vernacularism reservoir that many Americans so desperately seek. It is a consumable, visual language designed and embraced to be, by its very nature, a radical act.”

Or this, from Kalefa Sanneh:

“If the works in Black Romantic constitute what might be called the commercial mainstream of contemporary black art, they are also descended from the storytelling tradition that has been central to African-American culture and literature. as Jonathan Knight puts it, “My paintings are allegorical in nature,” which is to say, they are representational without necessarily being mimetic. They use types to tell stories.”

The exhibition was reviewed by James Trainor, for Frieze, Issue 69, September 2002. Trainor’s review was sensitive, considered and discussed the exhibition with great clarity. Amongst his concluding comments, “The Studio Museum in Harlem is in an uneviable position. On the one hand it represents a community and a culture, while on the other it is committed to presenting the foremost achievements of African-American artists to a wider world. The museum has been criticized by some in the black community, especially in its own backyard, Harlem, for ignoring precisely this kind of art in favour of the highbrow avant-garde practices that will be accepted downtown. ‘Black Romantic’ seems to be an acknowledgement and a questioning of those criticisms, and deserves credit for raising the issue of which black artists are on the inside and which are on the outside, and why.”

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click to show details of Black Romantic - catalogue

»  Black Romantic - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2002

click to show details of Black Romantic - review

»  Black Romantic - review

Review relating to an exhibition, 2002

People in this exhibition + view all 30

»  Alonzo Adams

Born, 1961 in Harlem, New York

»  Leroy Allen

Born, 1951 in Kansas City, Kansas, USA

»  Iana L. N. Amauba

Born, 1975 in Eugene, Oregon, USA

»  Jules R. Arthur, III

Born, 1970 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

»  Alexander Austin

Born, 1961 in Tallahassee, Florida, USA

Exhibition venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

Yinka Shonibare (Studio Museum in Harlem)

Solo show at Studio Museum in Harlem. 2002
Date: 24 January, 2002 until 31 March, 2002
Curator: Thelma Golden
Organiser: Studio Museum in Harlem

Solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, of ten works by Yinka Shonibare, made between 1994 and 2001. From the Foreword & Acknowledgments by Lowery Stokes Sims, Director of the Studio Museum:

“From its initial founding, The Studio Museum in Harlem has sought to understand and redefine Africa and the museum has explored the rich traditions in African art. This exhibition allows us to not only make visible our newly expanded mission which includes the presentation of artists of African descent, but also our renewed commitment to the presentation of innovative contemporary art.”

Within her catalogue essay, Thelma Golden, the exhibition’s organiser, wrote  “Born in Nigeria and a resident of London, Yinka Shonibare has brilliantly dismantled the myths of Africanism, even as he has cleverly - and beautifully - exploited its apeal. He has played a crucial role in the debate on multiculturalism and post-colonialism in the United Kingdom. As a student at Goldsmith’s (sic) the leading art school in London, in the 1980s, he devoted himself to work about globalism and other aesthetic and political issues. One day, a professor asked him why he didn’t make “real African art.” Shonibare replied dryly: “I’m African and if I’m making it, it’s African art.”

Shonibare was in fact born in London.

The small but extensively illustrated catalogue included an essay on Shonibare by Okwui Enwezor.

 

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click to show details of Yinka Shonibare (Studio Museum in Harlem)

»  Yinka Shonibare (Studio Museum in Harlem)

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2002

People in this exhibition

»  Yinka Shonibare MBE RA

Born, 1962 in London, England

Exhibition venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

Yinka Shonibare (Studio Museum in Harlem)

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2002
Published by: Studio Museum in Harlem
Year published: 2002
Number of pages: 47
ISBN: 0-942949-22-6
Unpaginated.

image of Yinka Shonibare (Studio Museum in Harlem)

Small but extensively illustrated catalogue for solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, of ten works by Yinka Shonibare, made between 1994 and 2001. From the Foreword & Acknowledgments by Lowery Stokes Sims, Director of the Studio Museum:

“From its initial founding, The Studio Museum in Harlem has sought to understand and redefine Africa and the museum has explored the rich traditions in African art. This exhibition allows us to not only make visible our newly expanded mission which includes the presentation of artists of African descent, but also our renewed commitment to the presentation of innovative contemporary art.”

Within her catalogue essay, Thelma Golden, the exhibition’s organiser, wrote  “Born in Nigeria and a resident of London, Yinka Shonibare has brilliantly dismantled the myths of Africanism, even as he has cleverly - and beautifully - exploited its apeal. He has played a crucial role in the debate on multiculturalism and post-colonialism in the United Kingdom. As a student at Goldsmith’s (sic) the leading art school in London, in the 1980s, he devoted himself to work about globalism and other aesthetic and political issues. One day, a professor asked him why he didn’t make “real African art.” Shonibare replied dryly: “I’m African and if I’m making it, it’s African art.”

(Shonibare was in fact born in London).

Contents as follows:

Foreword & Acknowledgments, Lowery Stokes Sims

Introduction, Thelma Golden

Four pages of colour plates of installation shots of Shonibare’s work

Essay, Tricking the Mind: The Work of Yinka Shonibare, by Okwui Enwezor.

Fifteen pages of artist’s plates

Works in the Exhibition

Artist’s Biography

SMH Board of Trustees

SMH Staff

Related people

»  Okwui Enwezor

Born, 1963 in Nigeria

»  Thelma Golden

Born, 1966 in Queens, New York

»  Yinka Shonibare MBE RA

Born, 1962 in London, England

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2010
Published by: Studio Museum in Harlem
Year published: 2010
Number of pages: 76
ISBN: 978-0-942949-05-6

image of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations

Catalogue for major Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition by British artist, Lynette-Yiadom Boakye, called Any Number of Preoccupations, 11 November 2010 – 13 March 2011.

Yiadom-Boakye distinguished herself by producing the most enigmatic of portraits. She tended to take as her subjects Black people, not drawn from life, but instead taken – assembled almost – from a variety of secondary material. The significance of the successes achieved thus far by Yiadom-Boakye cannot easily be overstated. It appeared that Yiadom-Boakye had found ways to present a largely non-racial reading of the Black image. In a world in which the white image stood for the general and the Black image stood for the racially or ethnically or culturally specific, Yiadom-Boakye seemed able to use, or construct the Black image in ways that, whilst not exactly transcending race, or difference, were able to wrestle it free from the limited range of readings that historically seemed to plague the Black image. Yiadom-Boakye seemed able to break what had been, for so many practitioners, a somewhat debilitating coupling of the words Black and artist, even though her portraits reflected an unblinking examination of Black portraiture.

The men and women presented in Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits were oftentimes decidedly dark-skinned and as such, represented an almost over-determination of Blackness. In some portraits, this was achieved by the visibility of the whites of the subjects’ eyes. In others, this sense of over-determination was achieved by the showing of the subjects’ teeth. There was also the use of the decidedly dark backgrounds or overall environments in which the artist located her subjects. For a Black artist to be able to paint Black people and to draw positive attention from the art world was rare indeed.

This was an important exhibition by the artist, coming as it did with this substantial colour catalogue, which included a piece of the artist’s fiction writing. From one of the catalogue’s essays, by Naomi Beckwith:

“Central to the exhibition Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any number of Preoccupations is the recent painting entitled Any Number of Preoccupations. In addition to lending the exhibition its title, this exceptional canvas by Yiadom-Boakye demonstrates the artist’s considerable skills in figuration and color and is indicative of the most prominent feature of her painting practice: her body of work consists entirely of human figures, the majority of which are black.” Beckwith’s essay concludes, “Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are not neat in the same way that historical narratives are muddled, untidy and representationally suspect.”

Contents as follows:

Foreword and Acknowledgments

Essay - Yiadom-Boakye’s Black Paintings, Naomi Beckwith

Essay - The Subversion of Realism: Likeness, Resemblance and Invented Lives in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Post-Portrait Paintings, Okwui Enwezor

Plates

Treatment for a Low-Budget Television Horror with the Working Title: “Dinner with Jeffrey”, fiction by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Plates continued

Works in the Exhibition

Curriculum Vitae

Related people

»  Naomi Beckwith

Born, 1976 in Chicago

»  Okwui Enwezor

Born, 1963 in Nigeria

»  Thelma Golden

Born, 1966 in Queens, New York

»  Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Born, 1977 in London

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

The Shadows Took Shape

Group show at Studio Museum in Harlem. 2013 - 2014
Date: 14 November, 2013 until 9 March, 2014
Curator: Naima J. Keith and Zoe Whitley
Organiser: Studio Museum in Harlem

The Shadows Took Shape was an exhibition held at Studio Museum in Harlem, 14 November  - 9 March 2014. A review of the exhibition was written by Miriam Atkin and appeared in the March 2014 issue of Art in America, on pages 145-146.

From the review: “The Shadows Took Shape,” which borrows its title from a poem by the renowned jazz musician Sun Ra, is an exhibition about channeling technological visions not toward commodity culture - the standard beneficiary of scientific ingenuity - but toward a release from present constraints into a broadly self-determined future. Studio Museum assistant curator Naima J. Keith and independent curator Zoe Whitley have collected 60 works by 29 international artists around the concept of “Afrofuturism,” a term coined in 1994 by theorist Mark Dery to indicate an aesthetic mode that intermngles pan-African concerns with science fiction and fantasy imagery. Nodding to the reigning influence of Sun Ra’s 1972 mytho-satirical sci-fi film, Space is the Place, the show gives much attention to the moving image. as a whole, the film and video program, including works by [John] Akomfrah, Wanuri Kahui, Wangechi Mutu, the Otolith Group and Larissa Sansour being screeened sequentially in the downstairs gallery, provides a useful, essayistic background to the show’s theme.”

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Review relating to an exhibition, 2014

Exhibition venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America