Stephanie’s World: Black Refractions, Highlights From The Studio Museum In Harlem

March 2, 2019

By Stephanie Woods

The Studio Museum in Harlem and AFA -American Federation of Arts, have begun a national tour. AFA a non-profit organization founded in 1909 with the mission to simply bring the museum to the people, has collaborated with The Studio Museum of Harlem. The tour began in January and will be traveling internationally to bring an enriching experience to the public with a candid, vivid and enriching art exhibition.

Black Refractions, a traveling exhibition brings nearly a century of works by artist of African Descent to audiences across the United States and will be shown at 6 venues across the United States-Presentations will be shown at local institutions: The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA (January16-April 14, 2019) Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC (Mary 24-August 18, 2019); Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, MI (September 13-December 8, 2019): Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA (January 17-April 12, 2020); Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (May9-August 2, 2020); and Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT (August 28-December 13, 2020).

The Studio Museum of Harlem founded in 1968 by a diverse group of artists, community activists and philanthropist, the museum has a reputation of promoting works of local artists of African descent. will be celebrating their 50th. Anniversary shortly as they prepare for their new building which is currently under renovations. As an educator and cultural and historical preserver, the museum has a deep history and relationship of supporting its community artists. While the Studio Museum is currently closed, the Museum has opened Studio Museum 127, a temporary program space located at 429 West 127 Street.

The SVA Theater recently held a candid panel discussion to celebrate the national exhibition tour, speaking with artists Steffani Jemison an artist based in Brooklyn, NY her work uses time-based, photographic and discursive platformed to examine “progress” and its alternatives; artist Robert Pruitt from Houston Texas currently lives and works in NYC, received his B.F.A. from Texas Southern University (2000) and a M.F.A from the University of Texas at Austin (2003) is a founding member of the Houston Artist Collective Otabenga Jones & Associates and was awarded residencies at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (2015) and the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans (2016). The evening was not your usual discussion with images then a question and answer from the audience. The evening was a simple conversation amongst friends, according to communications manager Shawna C. Gallancy

The event was curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah an American curator and cultural critic who uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. Larry was more than proud to be avail for this event. Larry noted “these events allow me to network, to build relations-I pay out of my pocket simply to speak at events that keep me engaged, it’s an investment in my own career. Co-curator Connie H. Choi, Permanent Collection at The Studio Museum in Harlem, has worked on the Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem was an assistant at the Brooklyn Museum. She is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at Columbia university and received a B.A. in the history of art from Yale University and an Ed.M. in arts education from Harvard University.

According to Pauline Willis, Director & CEO American Federation of Arts, “The American Federation of Arts is incredibly proud of our work to create the traveling exhibition Black Refractions in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem. Over the course of the six venue national exhibition tour, the show will provide a first-hand experience of The Studio Museum’s collection to many who would not otherwise have access. We also felt it was very important to have an expanded dialogue about the significance of this exhibition here in New York City, which led the AFA to organize the panel discussion at the SVA Theatre that brought together the voices of artists and curators involved with the project.”

The exhibition tour will showcase the works of artists: Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Charles Alston, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden,Dawoud Bey,McArthur Binion,Betty Blayton-Taylor,Chakaia Booker, Frank Bowling, Mark Bradford, Jordan Casteel, Elizabeth Catlett, LeRoy Clarke,Willie Cole, Eldzier Cortor, Noah Davis, Beauford Delaney, Thornton Dial, Leonardo Drew, Melvin Edwards, Meschac Gaba, Sam Gilliam, David Hammons, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Barkley L. Hendricks, Richard Hunt, Clementine Hunter, Juliana Huxtable, Steffani Jemison,Loïs Mailou Jones,Isaac Julien,Titus Kaphar, Seydou Keïta, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Glenn Ligon, Kalup Linzy, Tom Lloyd, Whitfield Lovell, Alvin Loving, Kerry James Marshall,Julie Mehretu, Adia Millett, Wangechi Mutu, Kori Newkirk, Otobong Nkanga, Odili Donald Odita, Chris Ofili, Lorraine O’Grady,Jennifer Packer, Howardena Pindell, Robert Pruitt, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Jacolby Satterwhite, Malick Sidibé, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Shinique Smith, Henry Taylor, Alma Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Bob Thompson, Bill Traylor, James VanDerZee, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, Stanley Whitney, Jack Whitten, Kehinde Wiley, William T. Williams, Fred Wilson, Hale Woodruff, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Black Refractions Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, is most proud to give a platform to artists of color that may not have the opportunity elsewhere. The mission to not only support the local artist of African descent but to help promote, inspire and to discovery these artists is what drives the mission of the museum, according to Connie.

Related: Check out more Studio Museum Content here.

The artists on hand not only praised the museum’s initiatives but spoke of the artistic community, which supports each other. Robert’s views on images are to stay inspired and innovative, stay open to new influences-comics and science fiction, aids in his creativity. While Steffani uses people, relations, experiences, younger artists and new energetic ideas in order to stay inspired-with a motto “what’s it for and who’s it for”.

Curator Connie H. Choi notes “The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded on a deep commitment to creating an institution in Harlem that foregrounded the role of artists and education.1968, a watershed year in U.S. history that included major discussions regarding the struggles of disenfranchised peoples around the world and the place of black artists in the art world. Black Refractions brings these conversations into a contemporary context, as it celebrates innovative artistic production by artists of African descent.” Connie gave vivid details on how the works were selected, noting there will be NO theme or structure. The show’s purpose is to show an artistic cultural, social, political and total diverse view of works in order to engage a culturally mixed audience.
While the Museum will continue to find fresh and innovative medians to bring cultural and historic artistic expressions to the village of Harlem, their collaborative efforts will continue to bring the broadest and most creative graphics and extensive visuals to the community.

Photo credit: Lawdy Mama, 1969. By Barkley L. Hendricks.

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