studio harlem

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.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Margo Jefferson are two of the finest intellectuals in our country today. Gates, a MacArthur Fellow, and Jefferson, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, share a deep interest in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 2006, Gates and Jefferson sat down at the Library for a special event on the novel co-presented with The Studio Museum in Harlem. While initially praised by the likes of Frederick Douglass, its eponymous character has also at times been linked with an insulting vision of black masculinity and, more recently, has been recuperated by some feminist scholars. For this week’s episode of the New York Public Library Podcast, we’re proud to present Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Margo Jefferson discussing the myriad ways of understanding Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

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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. 

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The Work of Ebony G. Patterson: The Transcendent within the Mundane

These are a few pieces from the multimedia art of Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson, and artist who has made her mark in the global art world. Her works have been exhibited in places like the National Gallery of Jamaica, The Studio Museum of Harlem, The Museum of Art + Design, and The Museum of the Americas in D.C. I first learned about her through my family because her work shares similar aesthetics and Afro-Caribbean heritage, so naturally I’m DYING to see her work in person. Her life-sized works take the material and visual culture of contemporary Jamaican youth and “video light” aesthetics and layers them in ways that play with performance, spectacle/theatrics, violence and death, hyper- and invisibility, and residues of colonial subjugation and neoliberal economics. The lush, paradisaical landscape of Jamaica , as we imagine it via historical tourism marketing, is parodied by its flattened and faded representation in carpets, rugs and embroidery patches. The mundane textiles brings to the forefront that which consumer visual culture attempts to hide. Now we can see handmade crafts for the black home (not white tourist), First world imports that are not “authentic” to the island’s natural resources, and embedded glitter that reminds the viewer’s desire in their gaze is to spectacularize Afro-Caribbean objects. Patterson similarly plays with her subjects, completely erasing their skin or turning it into prints and studded with gems. Their clothes and poses are common to “video light” culture, in which young black performers (rappers, singers, dancers) perfect every aspect of their costume, vocals and movement for the camera’s flash, in ways that are immediately identifiable as uniquely Jamaican. The excessiveness of her alterations and layering plays tricks on the viewer’s eyes: is that a bullet hole or a cut out? It that a bandanna or lace? And gold chains, pearls rhinestones laid over flat pictures enact the same glistening affect as the glitter. I am reminded of Anne Cheng’s concepts of second skin and shine in her discussion of Josephine Baker, but Patterson pays more critical attention to the materiality of Black Caribbean life, identity performance, and consumerism. Where Cheng stops at the banana, Patterson traces slavery and colonization with rum bottles and golden tea cups, to neoliberal hierarchies in import/export trade agreements. Black artists of all mediums have used material culture to posit social critique, and fascination with Black culture sometimes lands them and their work in social spaces known for White institutional privilege. But this circulation also allows Black people who have immigrated out of the Caribbean to see their work, and to us, seeing this work is an affirmation of the soul. 

- Brandi L.

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. 

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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.