A Few Highlights Of 2017 to Get Us Excited for the New Year
The fabulous exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry opened on the West Coast at the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA in March. The show was previously at MCA Chicago and The Met in NY. This show was a 35 year retrospective of the artist and his pursuit of portraying black people and culture in vividly-colored, larger-than-life paintings.
In April Kellie Jones, Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia, gave us the gift that is South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and the 1970s, a densely researched account of the black artists, collectors and gallery owners who made the LA art scene what it is today, including sculptor and performance artist Senga Nengudi, pictured on the cover, right. South of Pico was included in Culture Type's The 14 Best Black Art Books of 2017.
Also in April, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 opened at the Brooklyn Museum and featured the work of women of color, artists and activists, during the emergence of second-wave feminism. This exhibition focuses on the work of these women to change the conversation around racial and gender politics, activism, and art history and practice and is one of the first major exhibitions to solely focus on the artistic production of women of color at this time. It showcases the work of black women artists such as Faith Ringgold, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O'Grady, and Betye Saar and more. Accompanying the exhibition is a Sourcebook, a collection of rare documents and archival materials of the period.
In May Solange Knowles further solidified her role as one of the most influential and innovative performing artists of the year with her piece 'An Ode To' at a sold out show at the Guggenheim Museum. Guests were asked to dress in all white and give up their cell phones at the door. Commenting on the iconic architecture of the venue and the larger accessibility of arts and cultural institutional spaces to people of color, Solange said, “I care about seeing your faces in this light. I don’t care much about the institutions. I care about having the show to see the faces that I wrote this album for.” The performance utilized the spiraling ramps of the rotunda, filling the space with the sounds of A Seat At The Table.
Also in May, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song For A Cypher opened at the New Museum in New York. The 2013 Turner Prize winner created 17 new works, portraits of entirely fictional characters.
In July, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power opened at the Tate Modern in London. The show, which begins in the year 1963, the year of the March on Washington, spans 20 years and focuses on the negotiation of the purpose and aesthetics of the Black Arts Movement. The exhibition prominently featured a portrait by the late artist Barkley L. Hendricks, who passed away in April of this year.
In September, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened in Cape Town, South Africa. Surrounded by controversy, it stands as the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. The building, created from grains silos, houses the extensive collection of Jochan Zeitz, curated by Mark Coetzee. The opening exhibition, All Things Being Equal, highlights the vastness of the collection, including artists Zanele Muholi, El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, and many more.
In October it was announced that Amy Sherald & Kehinde Wiley were chosen to paint the official portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama, respectively, for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the first black artists to do so. Both artists are known for their large-scale portraits of black people. Sherald, with her muted palette and Wiley with his vivid colors and patterns and art historical references, both explore black subjects as they construct and perform their identities. While Wiley has had renowned success in the art world, Sherald's work is starting to gain more exposure, with a piece currently on display in Fictions, at the Studio Museum in Harlem and her first major solo exhibition opening in May 2018 at the CAM St. Louis.
In October Toyin Ojih Odutola’s solo exhibition, To Wander Determined, opened at the Whitney Museum in New York. Read more here. The exhibition was co-curated by the new Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum, Rujeko Hockley, who earlier this month was named as Co-Curator of the 2019 Whitney Biennial.