Feb 232024
 

Wadsworth A. Jarrell’s Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971, spotted at Brooklyn Museum in 2020, is based off of a photograph of the activist.  The colorful painting includes words from her speeches and actual bullet cartridges.

From the museum about the work-

Wadsworth Jarrell’s Revolutionary (Angela Davis) is one of the most recognized paintings associated with the Black Arts Movement, a cultural manifestation of the Black Power Movement. Artists of this movement sought to create uplifting images that called upon Black people to harness their collective power. The power of communal action is here expressed through a chromatic swirl of individual colors that coalesce into a unified image of the radical activist and intellectual Angela Davis. Davis’s militant clothing—complete with bullet cartridges—was modeled after the Revolutionary Suit designed by artist Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth’s wife. An icon of Black Power, Davis continues to lead the prison abolition movement today.

Jarrell, along with his wife, is part of the African American artist collective AFRICOBRA, formed in Chicago in 1968.

Below is part of a statement about the group from their website by another of the founders, Gerald Williams.

AFRICOBRA began very loosely in 1968 as an association of visual artists. We decided to commit our selves to the collective exploration, development, and perpetuation of an approach to image making which would reflect and project the moods, attitudes, and sensibilities of African Americans independent of the technical and aesthetic strictures of Euro-centric modalities.  Jeff Donaldson, who spearheaded the movement,Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and myself, Gerald Williams opened the lid on what we called AFRICOBRA – African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists.  It was an original name that came to identify our place within the broader context of Black art.

Our mission was to encapsulate the quintessential features of African-American consciousness and world view as reflected in real time 1968 terms.  For months, beginning as early as 1967, we examined and talked about the forms of expression and images produced by previous generations of artists.  We came to the realization that there was not the existence of a consistent, unequivocal, uniquely Black aesthetic in visual arts as there was in other disciplines, notably music and dance. Many of our contemporary artists, at the time, generally said that they “were artists who happened to be black”, or held the view that their work was expressing universal ideas or concepts that were not tied to such a narrow category as Black art.   The notion of an intrinsically Black view point, expressed in characteristically “Black ways”  was a relatively alien idea for the most part.  That notion begged the question as to whether it was possible to create a style or approach to art that at its core could be identified as African-American or Black, notwithstanding  the presence of Black imagery or subject matter.  If imagery and subject matter were the sole criteria then the question was moot.  One could conclude, thereby, that Winslow Homer or any number of artists produced Black art when they painted Black images.  After numerous brain storming sessions where such topics were discussed, after test projects and critiques,  the five of us mapped out the core principles that became the foundation of AFRICOBRA.

 

Dec 222023
 

José Parlá’s majestic paintings, pictured above, are from his series CICLOS: Blooms of Mold. They are currently on view as part of the Brooklyn Museum exhibition, Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls. The other artists included are Maya Hayuk, Kennedy Yanko, and the late Leon Polk Smith.

From the museum about the work-

In his monumental compositions, José Parlá layers and scrapes paint to obscure, reveal, and abstract both text and narrative, creating landscapes with textured gestural skies interwoven with a unique code of writing to reveal a new horizon with a universal line. Parlá’s abstracted text visually recalls underground mycelium formations, complex and mysterious fungi communication networks he references that interconnect everything on earth through a web of life. The five newly created paintings on view draw upon his youth as a Cuban American in Miami in the 1980s, his world travels, his almost fatal battle with COVID-19 in 2021, and his survival and recovery.

While in a three-month-long coma after contracting the virus, Parlá experienced dreams that carried him through his healing process. While recovering in the hospital, he transformed these visions into acrylic on paper drawings and, once back in the studio, into these powerful, otherworldly paintings that evoke natural landscapes. Their distinct horizon lines and internal, precise, psychological geographies remind us of our shared humanity.

Blooms of Mold, this new body of large-scale paintings, was inspired by what the art historian Simon Schama, in describing the art of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, once called “blooms of mold,” which one encounters on decaying urban and natural landscapes.

Parlá chose the subtitle Ciclos (from the Greek Kúkos, meaning circle) to refer to the life cycle and the function of the mycelium. It connects to ecosystems, providing nutrients and information to trees, which, in turn, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, providing critical support for the respiratory systems of humans and all other living beings. Without mycelium, there would be no life.

The exhibition will be on view until 7/28/24.

Nov 082023
 

The image above is Boris Anisfeld’s Clouds over the Black Sea-Crimea, 1906, from Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Monet to Morisot: The Real and Imagined in European Art which highlights European art from the 19th and early twentieth-century from their collection. The exhibition “focuses on a period of significant societal transformation, when artistic techniques, subject matter, and patronage underwent profound changes”.

About the painting from the museum-

Boris Anisfeld’s canvas presents a vertiginous view of the Black Sea from the top of the Ayu-Dag mountain in southern Ukraine. The viewer has the sensation of being placed in midair, looking down through billowing clouds at an expanse of blue water, in the midst of which is a small boat. Although the scene represents a vast space, the artist’s complex composition challenges the illusion of depth in traditional landscapes by flattening the elements-cloud, land, and horizon-onto a single plane.

This painting was included in the 1906 Salon d’Automne in Paris in the Russian galleries organized by the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, for whom Anisfeld designed stage sets and costumes. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the artist came to the United States, and within a year the Brooklyn Museum hosted his first American one-person exhibition.

This exhibition closes on 11/12/23.

 

Sep 122023
 

 

Above are two of the works from Athena LaTocha’s The Remains of Winter (Battle Hill, East), 2022, currently at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

From the cemetery’s website about the work-

Athena LaTocha creates large-scale works inspired by her close observations of the natural world, from the deserts and mountains of the Southwest to the Great Plains. She often incorporates elements of these environments, including soil, sand, bark, and rocks. Recently, she has been particularly drawn to trees, considering them as record keepers that bear the markings of time.

Inspired by Green-Wood’s centuries-old trees and its legacy as a place of remembrance, LaTocha has created The Remains of Winter. She cloaked the remains of two massive European beeches on Battle Hill in thin sheets of lead, a material that has been used for centuries in coffins to slow the decomposition of the body. By hand-forming this malleable metal onto the trees, LaTocha captures the unique details of their shapes and forms, even as they slowly degrade beneath the lead.

All around these sculptures, the Cemetery is in a continuous cycle of transformation. Felled trees are turned into mulch for new plantings, earth is removed then replaced for each new burial, and even the stone monuments themselves slowly erode. Through The Remains of Winter, LaTocha memorializes these shifts and changes while also raising profound questions about what we choose to commemorate and mourn—whether it is what we can witness before us or that which, like the movement of continents and land masses, unfolds over lifetimes.

The sculptures will remain on view through September 2023.

Sep 042023
 

Brooklyn artist Ken Rush’s Poolevator is one of several works located in Industry City– organized by The Collision Project.

From The Collision Project about the work-

This installation represents both the reality and fantasy. The reality is depicted in the inspiring monumental architecture, while the fantasy emerges in the joyful addition of a swimming club with a celebration of swimming, sunbathing, recreation and play. For Rush, the work is a homage to Impressionist painters like Monet and Suerat, and the way that they depicted urban and rural pleasures. This is a group project between Rush and three of his students from High School Visual Arts at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights.

Aug 012023
 

Sun and Moon, created by Jia Sung, is one of the artists chosen by The Collision Project, whose work can be seen in Industry City, Brooklyn.

About the mural-

The mural depicts two goddesses from Chinese mythology, flanking the courtyard door. The lunar deity Chang’E floats on the left with her companion rabbit, while solar goddess Xihe sits on the right with her ten sun-crow children. The paired murals reimagine protective door guardian imagery through the lens of the divine feminine.

 

Jun 192023
 

Robert Pruitt, “A Song for Travelers”

Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition, A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, is an opportunity to learn about an important period of American history, and see it interpreted through the eyes of twelve contemporary artists.

From the museum’s website-

Between 1915 and 1970, in the wake of racial terror during the post-Reconstruction period, millions of Black Americans fled from their homes to other areas within the South and to other parts of the country. This remarkable movement of people, known as the Great Migration, caused a radical shift in the demographic, economic, and sociopolitical makeup of the United States. A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration brings together twelve contemporary artists to consider the complex impact of this period on their lives, as well as on social and cultural life, with newly commissioned works ranging from large-scale installation, immersive film, and tapestry to photography, painting, and mixed media. Featured artists are Akea Brionne, Mark Bradford, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates Jr., Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, and Carrie Mae Weems.

A Movement in Every Direction presents a departure from traditional accounts of the Great Migration, which are often understood through a lens of trauma, and reconceptualizes them through stories of self-possession, self-determination, and self-examination. While the South did lose generations of courageous, creative, and productive Black Americans due to racial and social inequities, the exhibition expands the narrative by introducing people who stayed in, or returned to, the region during this time. Additionally, the Brooklyn Museum’s presentation centers Brooklyn as another important site in the Great Migration, highlighting historical and contemporary census data about the borough’s migration patterns. Visitors are encouraged to share their own personal and familial stories of migration through an oral history “pod” available in the exhibition galleries.

About Robert Pruitt’s work, pictured above, from the museum’s wall information plaque-

“A Song for Travelers” celebrates the individual and Black collective experiences that have shaped the histories of rural East Texas and Houston’s Third, Fourth, and Fifth Wards. In this drawing-based on an early 1970’s photograph of a reunion of the artist’s family in Dobbin, Texas -sixteen people gather around a seated central figure about to embark on a journey. During the creation of this work, the masked traveler became a stand-in for Pruitt, who had recently left his hometown of Houston.

Pruitt often draws inspiration from his and others’ family photographs while examining historical events that have impacted Houston’s Black communities. Wearing costumes and adorned with items that reference various aspects of Black culture found in schools, social clubs, and religious spaces, the figures in the work reflect the numerous networks that remained and flourished in the South. Merging the Great Migration period with the present, Pruitt centers the Black neighborhoods across the southern region that served as safe havens and rich sites of cultural expression for migrants during the twentieth century. This link extends to today as many Black Americans leave the northern and western cities that once attracted their elders and return to the South.

Allison Janae Hamilton’s A House Called Florida, below, takes the viewer on a journey through part of northern Florida’s natural beauty.

From the museum’s information plaque about the video installation-

Allison Janae Hamilton produced the three-channel film installation A House Called Florida in her hometown region of northern Florida. The breathtaking landscapes of Apalachicola Bay and the swampy Blackwater Lakes of Florida’s Big Bend frame musicians, dancers, motorists, a Victorian house, and a slow resounding rhythm.

The artist references French Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar’s 1946 short story “Casa Tomada.” (“House Taken Over”) about ghosts that slowly take over a home and eventually push out its owners, room by room. Hamilton echoes the story’s theme of displacement with two regally dressed, spirit-like protagonists who move about the house engaging in mark-making and ritual performances. Hamilton’s film pays tribute to the Black Floridians who remained in the Red Hills and the Forgotten Coast regions, despite the racial violence and environmental precariousness they faced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Carrie Mae Weems‘ personal and moving contribution is in two parts- a series of photographs and a unique digital video installation.

The museum’s description of the work-

Carrie Mae Weems explores a painful family story: the disappearance of her grandfather Frank Weems, a tenant farmer and union activist who was attacked by a white mob in Earle Arkansas, in 1936. Presumed dead, he narrowly escaped and made his way to Chicago on foot, never again reuniting with his family. Frank Weems may have followed the North Star to Chicago. Weems’s series of seven prints, The North Star, makes an apt metaphor for Frank’s life. In Leave! Leave Now! Weems conjures the figure of her grandfather with a Pepper’s Ghost, a late nineteenth-century form of illusion first used in theater. By weaving historical events with fragmented family stories, photographs, poetry, music, and interviews, the artist reveals the tragedy of her grandfather’s disappearance and the aftermath.

This exhibition will close on Sunday, June 25th, 2023.

May 052023
 

“Méduse de bal” gown

Even if fashion isn’t something you normally find interesting, it’s hard to resist the allure of the creations on view at the Brooklyn Museum for the retrospective Thierry Mugler: Couturissime.

From the museum’s web page-

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime is the first retrospective to explore the fascinating, edgy universe of French designer and creator of iconic perfumes Thierry Mugler. A fashion visionary, Mugler established himself as one of the most daring and innovative designers of the late twentieth century. His bold silhouettes and unorthodox techniques and materials—including glass, Plexiglas, vinyl, latex, and chrome—made their mark on fashion history.

In the 1970s, Mugler defined trends with his acclaimed “glamazon,” a chic, modern woman whose style evolved from the hippie fashions of the 1960s. In the 1980s and ’90s, Mugler galvanized the renaissance of haute couture through his provocative collections and theatrical fashion shows, which involved grandiose locations and the era’s most iconic models. Just as his work is still influencing new generations of couturiers, celebrities continue to be drawn to Mugler’s designs: his classic gowns have recently been worn by Beyoncé, Cardi B, and Kim Kardashian.

The exhibition features over one hundred outfits ranging from haute couture pieces to stage costumes, alongside custom accessories, sketches, videos, images by leading fashion photographers, and spectacular installations that mirror Mugler’s futuristic approach. The Brooklyn Museum’s presentation also introduces an expanded section dedicated to fragrance, centered on Mugler’s trailblazing scent Angel. Thierry Mugler: Couturissime is an opportunity to discover and rediscover the fantastical work of this multidisciplinary artist, who revolutionized the world of fashion.

 

A description of the above gown from the museum’s info plaque-

The “La Chimère” gown-Mugler’s masterpiece made in collaboration with the South African corset maker Mr. Pearl and the artist Jean-Jacques Urcun- has mythical status, considered by some as one of the most expensive creations in couture history, given the meticulous amount of work required in its making.

Mr. Pearl describes that collaboration with Mugler as the most extreme experience of his life: “[‘La Chimère gown] was probably the most intense project, it took six weeks working 24/7, so basically more than one thousand hours just in embroidery. We were about twenty people working on different parts of it along with Jean-Jacques Urcun. It’s about fantasy, it was like going to the University of Beauty. To fulfill his vision and his fantasies with clothes is already a challenge, he is a genius, a perfectionist. You have to try, and he pushes everyone to try what seems impossible to achieve with a needle.”

Also included in the exhibition are several incredible (and often safety-defying) photos Mugler took himself at various landmarks, including the one below at NYC’s Chrysler Building.

“Chrysler Building, New York”, 1989 -Claude Heidemeyer in “Vertigo” by Mugler, 1988

This exhibition closes 5/7/23.

 

Mar 162023
 

Adam Suerte, “Overpass, Redhook”

Laura Enderle, “Martini Theater”

LJ Lindhurst, “Magenta Sweet Soaker”

Tonight (3/16/23) at Basin Gallery in Redhook, Brooklyn, is the closing reception for the group exhibition of work by Adam Suerte, Danny Cortes, Laura Enderle, and LJ Lindhurst.

 

Mar 102023
 

Bonam Kim, “Untitled (401 Suydam Street), 2022”, Dollhouse miniatures, taxidermy pigeon, wood, paint and “Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”, 2018, wood, screw, silicone

Bonam Kim, “Untitled (401 Suydam Street)”, 2022, Dollhouse miniatures, taxidermy pigeon, wood, paint

Bonam Kim, “Untitled (Classroom)”, 2022, Dollhouse miniatures, wood, paint, paper

Bonam Kim, “Untitled (Classroom)”, 2022, Dollhouse miniatures, wood, paint, paper

Bonam Kim, “Untitled (1990-2005)”, 2022, Wall clock, dollhouse miniatures, wood

It’s the last weekend to see Bonam Kim’s GOOD JOB WELL DONE, at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn. The collection of sculptures are each based on events in Kim’s life and are incredible creations.

From the press release-

Kim grew up with her brother’s architectural models and drawings scattered around their house. Captivated by the relationship between model and actual space, she gained an acute sense of her spatial surroundings. This sensibility, combined with her love of making things with her hands, led her to constructing miniatures of her world. These objects invite us to navigate not only the spaces she has occupied physically, but also the psychological space of her experiences and memories. By manipulating scale and taking a bird’s-eye view perspective, Kim reclaims power over the past and present. Works like Between Dream and Dark and Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down playfully explore the frustrations of cross-cultural exchange, while Untitled (April 2, 2020) and Untitled (203 Harrison Pl) evince feelings of isolation and accumulation during the pandemic era.

In Untitled (Classroom), Kim recreates a typical classroom from memory. Within it she presents us with some of the artifacts of the post-war South Korean educational system: politely folded hands are given a “stamp of approval” on the blackboard, commended for their conformity. Kim continues this examination of the way architectural spaces regulate human behavior in Untitled (401 Suydam Street), a model of the artist’s bedroom. She restages an event in which her apartment’s ceiling had become infested by pigeons, eroding her sense of personal space and producing an uneasy awareness of surveillance—of being observed at her most intimate by an other.

Untitled (1990-2005) contends with a traumatizing childhood experience where Kim suffered a severe hand burn which led her to have multiple surgeries over an extended period of time. These memories led her to grow averse to going into spaces that brought forth memories of the hospital’s formal qualities, such as hair salons. With the piece she distills the relation between time, space, and memory, turning a wall clock into an operating room and hair salon. This sense of spatial unease is echoed in the piece Untitled (Mexico City-Seoul), which models the circumstances of renewing her visa in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. Having to ping-pong between Mexico and Seoul without knowing when she would be able to return to the United States made her reflect on the arbitrariness of the system, which is mirrored in the piece by an embassy office held within a lottery box, pointing to a bureaucratic opacity that leaves the user in a sort of Kafkaesque limbo.

This exhibition closes 3/12/23.