harlem studio museum

Glenn Ligon, Give us a Poem (Palindrome #2), 2007

“Glenn Ligon made this neon piece […] in 2007, and I saw it a little while back on the wall of the Studio Museum in Harlem, where it’s part of the permanent collection. The work is built around an incident that occurred at Harvard in 1975, when Muhammad Ali had just finished a speech and a student in the audience asked him to improvise a poem: ‘Me/We’ was the pithy verse Ali offered. Even then, at the height of the Black Power movement, it was an intriguingly opaque statement that could have been read as a gesture of solidarity between the black boxer and his white audience, or as an underlining of their difference. In Ligon’s work, the two words become a visual palindrome, of sorts – symmetrical top and bottom – and alternate being lit (white) and unlit (black), which just increases the tension inherent in them. In 2014, in a museum in Harlem, it strikes me that the tension is between the artist and the audience he addresses – with the issue of race still there, but now wrapped up in larger issues of aesthetic communities and the class, and color, they imply." Blake Gopnik, The Daily Pic

According to scholars, one in four cowboys in Texas during the golden age of westward expansion was black; many others were Mexican, mestizo, or Native American—a far more diverse group than Hollywood stereotypes would suggest.

The photos in an exciting new exhibit, “Black Cowboy,” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, suggest that that many common conceptions of what an iconic American looks like are wrong. Read more about the exhibit, and see more photos here. 

David Hammons (b. 1943) is an African-American artist from New York City. Among his works, which are often inspired by the civil rights and Black Power movements, one of the best known is the “African American Flag”, which he designed in 1990 by recoloring the U.S. national flag in the Garvey colors (red, black, and green of the Pan-African flag). The flag is a part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a copy is hoisted at the entrance to the Studio Museum in Harlem, a New York museum devoted to the art of African-Americans.

Alma Thomas
Apollo 12 “Splash Down,” 1970

Alma Thomas focused on her artistic career after retiring as a school teacher at the age of 69.  She was the first black woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum. 

Via The New Yorker – 

At the time of her solo show,1972, [Thomas] told the New York Times, “One of the things we couldn’t do was go into museums, let alone think of hanging our pictures there.” She added, “Look at me now.”

A current exhibition of her work is at the Studio Museum in Harlem and runs through October 30th. 


A new video game, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, is set in 18th Century Louisiana and features the Creole heroine Aveline de Grandpré, who infiltrates plantations, fights masters and incites riots in her missions.

“‘Blackness can be a sort of performance,’ wrote the Kotaku writer Evan Narcisse, who has championed Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, as well as advocated more sophisticated portrayals of African-Americans in video games in general. Liberation makes that metaphor literal, by letting Aveline adopt personas that give her varying abilities and constraints. The 'lady,’ who dresses and acts like the wealthy free woman that Aveline is, can fool men by charming them and is less likely to be noticed by the guards in the game — but she can’t climb buildings and is weak in a fight. The slave — Aveline disguises herself as one, while she and her white stepmother work to free others — can infiltrate areas under cover of labor. And the assassin persona is, well, less concerned with the historical basis of double consciousness.”

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/28/arts/video-games/assassins-creed-liberation-examines-colonial-blacks.html?ref=arts


Peter Schjeldahl on Stanley Whitney’s first solo museum show at the Studio Museum in Harlem:

It’s as if, for each painting, Whitney had climbed a ladder and then kicked it away. A viewer on the ground can only wonder how he got up there. A picture’s dynamics may seem about to resolve in one way: heraldically flat, for example. But blink, and the shapes swarm in and out—a Cubistic fire drill. 


This museum is located at 144 West 125th street in the neighboorhood of Harlem. It is an american comtemporary art museum which is devoted to the work of African-Americans artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the art of African-Americans and the African diaspora.

the true beauty of venice was stumbling across intimate public talks such as this one. after leaving the UAE pavilion, i saw thelma golden of the studio museum harlem in conversation with director steve mcqueen. there were a few audience members sat on a park bench which allowed me to stand back and take everything in.

steve was talking about his short film ‘ashes’ which was being screened just a few metres away. ‘ashes’ revolves around discarded footage shot in grenada by himself and cinematographer robert muller in 2002. mcqueen returned to grenada 10 years later to discover the young protagonist, ashes, was killed in a brutal murder. the footage is then used interspersed with dialogue from those who knew ashes to cast a sombre light on images which outwardly seem almost dreamlike.  

the most important takeaway was to revive those untold stories, and to make sure the past is recorded and remembered through whichever medium necessary, lest our stories be told by those who don’t truly know enough to do them justice. a beautiful 15 minutes of quiet conversation and contemplation before everyone disappeared in search of the next piece of art to digest.