Spotlight: Thelma Golden

As a black woman curator in an overwhelming white male art world, Golden has long fostered art that burns with racial and gender issues.” Joyce Corrigan, Artnet

Born in 1965 in Queens, New York, Golden is one of today’s most notable museum curator’s.

Golden’s childhood love of museums put her on the fast track to becoming a driving force in the art world. Her first hands-on training came as a senior in high school, when she trained as a curatorial apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She went on to earn a BA in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College in 1987. Golden’s first curatorial position was at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1987. Then, in 1991, Thelma took a position at the Whitney Museum of American Art where she remained until 1999.

Her most heralded contributions have been her 1993 Whitney Biennial collaboration. The Biennial took controversial look at America and tough social issues such as race, gender, sexuality, AIDS, and gay rights. Just a few years later there was Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, where 29 minority artists displayed works that illustrated the current conceptions of black masculinity. The artists were black men, such as Gary Simmons, and Lyle Ashton Harris; black women, such as Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, and Renee Cox; and a few Asian, Hispanic, and white artists to provide a multitude of perspectives. The exhibition also incorporated film, video, and media and was accompanied by an extensive catalogue.

Currently, Golden is the director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. And on the boards of Creative Time in New York and the Institute of International Visual Arts in London.

Thelma Golden, you rock!

Learn more about Thelma Golden at these great resources:
The Black List Project
TED (Ideas worth sharing) Thelma speaks on How Art gives shape to cultural change.

photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

SPOTLIGHT: Kehinde Wiley

 

American Artist_Kehinde Wiley

 

American Artist, Kehinde Wiley‘s work is a colorful blend of traditional and contemporary roots seen in his trademark over sized portraits where young men and women of color, posed in their street clothes are fixed into grandiose backgrounds that suit them as if they were royalty. Initially his portraits were based on the photographs of young men in Harlem, now he has firmly situated himself as the painter known to travel to urban places in Israel, Africa, Brazil and India to find his next subject.

These portrayals inspire people to throw out phrases like ‘crossing boundaries’, and ‘breaking down barriers’ when they refer to his art. In the last six years or so, Wiley has become a highly sought after painter – with a style I like to refer to as ‘art house rebel rousing’.  At the forefront of this modern takeover is his artistic desire to make art that continues to carry on a discourse for people of color, “I think it’s important for African-American kids to see pictures of people who look like them on museum walls”, says Kehinde.

 

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“I think one of the things that must happen in the work is for it to become class-conscious. You’ll never be able to exist within this marketplace without recognizing that paintings are perhaps the most expensive objects in the art world. It’s not going to change anyone’s life. But what it does function as is a catalyst for a different way of thinking. The very act of walking into the Los Angeles County Museum and seeing Kerry James Marshall as a kid gave me a sense of, Damn, maybe I can do this. And, so, symbols matter. One of my interests is in having the work in as many public collections as possible. When I go to the Brooklyn Museum or the Metropolitan Museum and see my stuff, I’m aware that there are other young kids who don’t have access to anything like it.”

—quote pulled from Meghan O’Rourke’s interview with Kehinde Wiley in WSJ

Enjoy these great links to more information on Wiley:

  • Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic at The Toledo Museum of Art (On view Feb. 10-May 14, 2017) offers an overview of the artist’s prolific 14-year career. His signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on paintings by Old Masters, replacing European aristocrats in those paintings with contemporary black subjects and drawing attention to the absence of African-Americans from historical and cultural narratives
  • Not convinced that you need to see the exhibit?  Wow yourself with the necessity to see Kehinde Wiley’s work in person with this intimate portrait of Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, now on demand at PBS Art.
  • There are several great art books that verse you in all things Wiley, but the book simply titled, Kehinde Wiley is by far my favorite.  The book gets bonus points for having curator, Thelma Golden onboard as one its contributors.
  • For a closer look at Kehinde Wiley works now in circulation and editorial imprints, try Artsy’s resource.

 

kehinde wiley

Spotlight: Kerry James Marshall

Spotlight: Kerry James Marshall black history month

Spotlight: Kerry James Marshall black history month

Kerry James Marshall, was born in Birmingham, AL in 1955. Needless to say he was born into a world of murder, turmoil, and sadness for African-Americans everywhere. He has said in the past that it was impossible for his art not to have been influenced by his birthplace.

One of Mr. Marshall’s core beliefs is that “we all stand on the shoulders of giants.” Some of his greatest influences have been classic pieces of art, their structure and their subject matter. He developed this idea in his work and has applied many of these influences to creating his own Black masterpieces.

As Mr. Marshall would walk the hall of various museums, he noticed a striking difference between the busts of African heroes and the ones of Greco-Roman heroes. There was animation, aggressiveness, and heroism in those busts, while the African pieces were static, inert, and passive. Why couldn’t Black people be depicted as the Greco-Romans were?

From that idea came modeling his subjects as superheroes. Superheroes have been mostly White through the ages, and it was one of his ways of taking back power in Black imagery. The positive associations and feeling that superheroes engender were exactly what Mr. Marshall was seeking. Power, positivity, and heroism, long absent in representation.

For this idea, he hearkened back to his childhood and his love of superhero comic books. The irony that in this case, he stood on his own “shoulders” this time is very powerful, and he resurrected a long-dormant idea. There was power in blackness that had long been hidden, and questioned by the White world. He furthered this idea by depicting his figures as the blackest of black. This beautiful color was often highlighted by his colorful backgrounds. It was a lovely sight.

The other thing that struck this reporter about his art were his depictions of houses, all closed up from the outside, but inside, animated and warm. What went on behind the closed doors of Black folks? The maids, field hands, servants, slaves? What were their secret dreams and desires? To the rest of Caucasian America this was certainly a mystery. Exposing the secret yearnings and often sad and powerful world behind these doors is another goal of Mr. Marshall’s art. The overarching idea is that there is power and heroism in Blackness, and we need to spread the word.

“I am trying to establish a phenomenal presence that is unequivocally black and beautiful. It is my conviction that the most instrumental, insurgent painting for this moment must be of figures, and those figures must be black, unapologetically so.” — Kerry James Marshall

Spotlight: Kerry James Marshall black history month

Kerry James Marshall (American, born Birmingham, Alabama 1955)
Untitled (Studio), 2014
Acrylic on PVC panels; 83 5/16 × 119 1/4 in . (211.6 × 302.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Gift, Acquisitions Fund and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Multicultural Audience Development Initiative Gift, 2015

 

Spotlight: Kerry James Marshall black history month

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “School of Beauty, School of Culture,” 2012 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Museum purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth (Bibby) Smith, the Collectors Circle for Contemporary Art, Jane Comer, the Sankofa Society, and general acquisition funds. Photo courtesy MCA Chicago

 

Learn More:

  • If you missed his latest exhibition ‘Mastery’ at The Met, not to worry.  The audio guide for the exhibit is still up on the museum’s website.  You’ll find out more about his inspirations from Renaissance masterpieces to comic books—the discussion is led by a Met curator and the artist himself as they explore details and share the remarkable stories behind select works in the exhibition.

Spotlight: Titus Kaphar

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Titus Kaphar. (©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

 

Titus Kaphar tops my list of ‘Artists to Watch’, though it seems that most of the art world had their eyes trained on him already. When it come to iconography in art, Kaphar seems to be screaming the loudest.  His series of solo shows, project and installations continue to bend and shape conversation on race, hidden histories, and our justice system – or lack thereof.

“My work is an introduction to my vocabulary,” Kaphar says. “It looks at the way I deal with history and my different modes of intervention.”

Indeed it does. Kaphar works with conceptual goals; he reimagines historical events looking for his truth.

You stand before his paintings –  these contextual Classic and Renaissance painting styles and just as your brain begins to dive into that natural art recall, a reprogramming starts.  You notice the intentional cuts, bends, and sculpts in the canvas’, reconstructing and manipulating the way people of color are seen in this version of art history. Kaphar confronts you with the possibilities of exploring new narratives – there is no onrushing of guilt or innocence an appropriating that doesn’t feel de humanizing but that challenges the originality of story that once took precedence on the canvas, until Kaphar reshaped that narrative.

 

“A painting may inspire, but it’s people who make change.”

Spotlight: Titus Kaphar, Stripes, (2014).

Titus Kaphar, Stripes, (2015) at Jack Shainman Gallery, NY

Spotlight Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014)

Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Spotlight Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014).

Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Spotlight Titus Kaphar

Drawing the Blinds (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

Enjoy exploring these great links to more information on Kaphar:

  • Titus Kaphar website.
  • In this Time video, watch Kaphar in the process of making his oil painting, “Yet Another Fight for Remembrance” for Time Magazine’s cover of the Ferguson protests.
  • Titus Kaphar: History in the Making – a short video on his 2009 Seattle Art Museum Show
  • Dismantling History: An Interview with Titus Kaphar | Art21
  • See what engages him by taking on some books from Kaphar’s ‘Recommend Reading’.

    Feature photo of Titus Kaphar with Gift of Shrouded Descent, 2014, Oil and mixed media on canvas by Kubiat Nnamdie.

    Photos by HAHA Magazine

Spotlight: Jean-Michel Basquiat

jean-michel-basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. His career as a graffiti artist and musician was fostered in the 1980’s New York Art Scene. Under the pseudonym SAMO he’d leave poetical messages impregnated on city walls… “Plush safe he think’… ‘SAMO as an alternative to the bourgeois”. With his crowning of trademark dreadlocks, Basquiat was a regular downtown fixture – he’d go on to become one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Jean-Michel is credited with introducing graffiti into the realm of fine art. His paintings are often described as childlike; dealing with human anatomy, dense imagery, and his African-American heritage. The mixture of Afrocentric themes with graffiti, anchored on canvas with his esoteric texts and symbols was unconventional and hard to ignore.

His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became a victim of. At the age of twenty-seven he was found dead of a drug overdose in his Great Jones loft…the Radiant Child had left his canvassed works behind screaming at the world, their many faces torturing and riveting, like his legacy. The Whitney Museum of American Art held the first retrospective of his work from October 1992 to February 1993, and in 2016 his large canvas Untitled (1982) broke auction records with a final price of $57.3 million.

“He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.” – Keith Haring

Basquiat is sometimes more commonly talked of in the context of celebrity than artistically; his friendships/collaborations with Pop Art icon Andy Warhol are still critiqued in the vortex of pop culture phenomena. But there’s so much more…

Enjoy these great links to more information on the life of Basquiat:

  • The official Basquiat website.
  • For a closer look at Basquiat works now in circulation and editorial imprints from those still inspired by the Radiant Child, try Artsy’s resource.
  • Use this link  or this one , to read ‘The Radiant Child’, Rene Ricard’s 1981 Artforum article that launched Basquiat onto the art world.
  • Watch: Basquiat, the movie directed by Julian Schnabel starring Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat.
  • Or rent, Basquiat: The Radiant Child, this Tamra Davis movie boasts never seen footage.
  • At Basquiat’s memorial, Fab 5 Freddy “interpolated” the poem ‘Genius Child’ by Langston Hughes. You can read it here.
  • For a page-turning read on Jean-Michel & the 1980s art world, try ‘Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art‘.
  • Did you know Basquiat’s Great Jones Street Loft  was immortalized last year?
  • 1st Dibs has rare vinyl record albums with offset cover art from Jean Michel Basquiat’s band, Gray.
  • How could I forget the movie he starred in, Downtown 81 – that bizarre urban fairytale-like dream that mirrored his early life. You can stream the remastered 30th Anniversary edition on Amazon Video .
    *images Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1985 Photo: AP

SPOTLIGHT: KARA WALKER

 

 Kara-Walker-Domino-Factory-Lead

Kara Walker is an American Artist known for her bold exploration into race, culture and gender and identity issues. You might not have remembered her name, but surely I can recall you to her work once I show you those explosive black silhouettes resembling paper cut-outs that she’s most known for.

Born in 1969, Walker attended the Rhode Island School of Design and has gone on to showcase her work in some of the finest museums around: MOMA, SFMOMA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, just to name a few. She is the youngest MacArthur recipient as well as the youngest artist to receive a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In the article, fellow artist Barbara Kruger summed up Walker’s work amazingly with this quote. “Walker’s vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular “history.” They create a profusion of back stories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of “color blindness.” Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic effect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex.”

This past year, Walker took over the historic Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn for a collaboration with Creative Time NYC.  The exhibit, ‘Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby’ was “an homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

The exhibit was mind-blowing – scattered throughout the space were Banana Boys, life-size statues of little boys cast in sugar resin holding baskets, dripping dark molasses inside the warm building, adding to the permeating smell of burnt sugar. But nothing could distract from the overwhelmingly beautiful conceptual execution of the sugar-coated sphinx resting at 75-feet-long and 35-feet-tall.

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Delve deeper into Kara Walker’s work with these resources:

 

*featured pic courtesy of Creative Time, all other pics taken by HAHA MAG

SPOTLIGHT: Gordon Parks

American Photographer Gordon Parks has been called “the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism” – the man who taught himself how to take pictures at the age of twenty-five with a Voigtländer Brillant that he purchased at a pawn shop.

In 1948, after a stint with the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) covering the nation’s social conditions, he garnered attention with his photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader that won him widespread acclaim and a place as the first African-American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine – where he stayed for two decades. Parks work captures some of the most iconic moments in American Culture from the early 1940’s up until his death in 2006.  As a humanitarian, he seemed most passionate about capturing the nation in its moments of social upheaval with an air of timelessness. His lens so often found the dignity and pride of the people whose portraits accompanied these stories.

 

Parks was multi-faceted man – he was also a humanitarian, a musician, a film director, and a writer. “He spent much of the last three decades of his life expanding his style, conducting experiments with color photography. He continued working up until his death in 2006, winning many awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 1988, and over fifty honorary doctorates. He was also a noted composer and author, and in 1969, became the first African-American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film based on his bestselling novel The Learning Tree. This was followed in 1971 by the hugely successful motion picture Shaft. The core of his accomplishment, however, remains his photography the scope, quality, and enduring national significance of which is reflected throughout the Collection. According to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University, “Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will stay with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject.”**

You can become better acquainted with his legacy of work at The Gordon Parks Foundation.

*Come follow us on Twitter today (@hahamag #spotlightseries) as we tweet links to Gordon Park’s work online.

 

 

Gordon Parks, “Untitled,” Alabama (1956), Archival Pigment Print, 12 × 18 inches (© Gordon Parks Foundation, courtesy of the Foundation and Salon 94)

*images courtesy of Time Magazine. **quote from Biography of Parks at Gates Foundation website.