the studio museum in harlem

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.
David Adjaye named world's most influential architect by Time magazine
"Architectural visionary" David Adjaye has been named among Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2017 – and is the only architect to make the list

“Architectural visionary” David Adjaye has been named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2017 – and is the only architect to make the list.

While last year BIG founder Bjarke Ingels was the sole architect on the prestigious Time 100, this year only British architect Adjaye was recognised.

The accolade follows a momentous year for the Adjaye Associates founder, who recently turned 50. He completed the career-defining Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, won the London Design Medal and received a knighthood.

In a citation written by Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Adjaye-designed Studio Museum in Harlem, the architect is described as “one of the great architectural visionaries of our time”.

“His work – deeply rooted in both the present moment and the complex context of history – has envisioned new ways for culture to be represented and reflected in the built environment,” said Golden.

“Nowhere is this more evident than in his recent triumph on the National Mall,” she continued.

“Every architect has to contend with gravity – but when David designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the challenges of that elemental force went far beyond the ordinary.”

Time 100 is an annual ranking of the people the US magazine judges to be the most influential in America. Other creatives on this year’s list include fashion designer Raf Simons, filmmaker Cindy Sherman and writer Margaret Atwood.

Adjaye said he was “truly humbled” to be among them.

“Having the opportunity to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture has been one of the greatest honours of my career,” he said.

“To be included on this list is a testament to the power of this institution and its wide-reaching resonance.”

Adjaye was born in Tanzania, but is now based in London.

He made his name on projects including the Dirty House and the Stephen Lawrence Centre, both in London, but is increasingly working abroad, with projects in North America and Africa, as well as Continental Europe.

Upcoming projects include a cancer treatment centre in Rwanda and a major new art museum in Latvia.

He ranked at number 41 on the inaugural Dezeen Hot List – our own countdown of important names in architecture and design, generated by audience statistics.



What I love about Barkley L. Hendricks’ work is his ability to own the Black body. He captured the soul and spirit of Black people – our essence. Mr. Hendrick’s oil paintings are perfectly imperfect. Many of these works (which are mostly of men – but he also did women and nudes) were created in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but look like stylish Instagram portraits of today. He was so visionary that he created work that is still culturally relevant and withstand the test of time. No wonder his retrospective exhibit in 2008 at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (which also traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem) was aptly entitled “Birth of Cool.” EW


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. 

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.

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.

On December 12, Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, will speak about the groundbreaking 1994 Whitney exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art and its afterlives with writer Hilton Als and art historian and critic Huey Copeland. Register now!

Installation view of Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 10, 1994–March 5, 1995) Photograph by Geoffrey Clements

My Developer Origin Story

A man and a woman told me on two separate occasions “You don’t look like a programmer” and “You’re too creative to be a programmer.” Though their words were very discouraging to hear, at the time I understood their logic. Haitian born, Brooklyn raised, I graduated from Smith College with a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and a concentration in drawing.

After graduation I worked at restaurants and a coffee bar before moving to Neuehouse, a members-only workspace for people in creative industries, where I worked as a host. My responsibilities were simple, keep members’ spirits high and the space clean, but I knew I could be useful on their design team. I could connect and communicate with people using the web and art.

A month into my job at Neuehouse, I started an Adobe Creative Suite class. Balancing school and work was taxing but I knew my efforts would eventually culminate in an incredible project. The idea came in September, at the end of class, fueled by my desire to answer the question “What is Neuehouse?” Armed with my new Adobe skills, a Canon Rebel T1 camera, and my tricked out Macbook Pro, I set out to capture the unique personalities of the Neuehouse staff. I wanted to explore something small with the potential to reveal a lot, and decided shoes would be my subject. I photographed fifty employees’ shoes and interviewed them to find out what filled those shoes. The project, now a magazine, was titled “The Working Soles of Neuehouse.”

As I worked on the magazine, I realize I wanted a career that combined design with technology so I began applying to Parsons Paris MFA program in Design and Technology. Around the same time, a friend introduced me to the Flatiron School Fellowship and I knew I had stumbled on a goldmine. Here was an opportunity to be challenged, pushed, and prodded to be the best programmer possible. At the Flatiron School, I would have access to developers from whom I can learn. I refused to settle for anything less than admission. I worked on the magazine, my Parsons and Flatiron School Fellowship application, while attending Flatiron School meetups, and learning programming language, Ruby. January I finished the magazine and submitted my Parsons application. The magazine was incredibly successful and a print version followed soon. Two months later, I had an interview at the Flatiron School. Four interviews and a coding quiz later, I was admitted as a fellow. That moment I decided, admittance to Parsons or not, I would become a full-stack developer.

 One of the first problems I solved while at the Flatiron School was redesigning the user experience of selecting a museum exhibit. I’m always plagued by the search for museums to visit and the website navigation required to decide on an exhibition. The solution: gather all the data surrounding museums’ exhibitions in one place. I built “The Exhibitionist” in just two weeks. It is a web application that delivers current exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem all on one page. I am actively working to add more museums.

What I love most about being a developer is the endless ability to create and produce solutions with worldwide impact. My programming skills enable me to use my imagination to solve other people’s problems. My knowledge enables me to learn new languages, solve old problems in new ways, and work collaboratively to create web applications that are beneficial to people across varying backgrounds, industries, and continents. The only thing I wish I had known when I started is that yes, programming seems difficult at first but becomes easier over time. Overcoming that first hurdle is paramount. After deploying “The Exhibitionist,” I finally understood what it meant to be a programmer and why it is worth fighting through every frustration.

We as a community must work to actively support, mentor, and encourage programmers who are of color and identify as women. I am thankful to have had great friends who are programmers. They constantly told me, “Yes you can program and you should program.” Even when programming was hard, those same friends told me again, “Yes, programming is hard but you can and will do it.” This marginalized group of programmers needs the support and encouragement of a community who believes in their capabilities. We need to hear early and often “Yes you can program.”


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.”

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