DESERT X 2017

From Feb 25th - April 30th California's Coachella Valley and its desert landscape become the canvas for Desert X, an exhibition of site-specific work by contemporary artists from around the world. Desert X focuses attention on and creates conversation about 21st-century environmental, social, and cultural conditions as reflected in the greater Palm Springs area. 

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African Modernism: Architecture of Independence

Center for Architecture, New York

February 16 - May 27, 2017

Between 1957 and 1966, 32 countries – almost two thirds of all African nations – gained their independence from colonial powers. In these budding nations, including Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia that are featured in this exhibition, technology and development became tools of liberation and instruments for expressing national identity. The daring and ambitious designs of new buildings, from state banks to convention centers and stadiums, mirrored the optimism and aspirations of the newly liberated states.

Presenting over 700 photographs, as well as archival materials, historical photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, videos, plans, and sketches, Architecture of Independence documents the ambivalences of decolonization, its contradictions, and inconsistencies, but also its ambitions, aims, and aspirations.

*Thanks to fResh.air.fRolics for turning me on to this exhibit.


The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Acquires Papers of Renowned Literary Icon James Baldwin

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APRIL 12, 2017- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library, today announced acquisition of the personal archive of literary icon and social critic, James Baldwin. The archive includes 30 linear feet of handwritten letters and manuscripts; handwritten and typed drafts of essays, novels, and short stories; unpublished and published creative works in their nascent and final stages; galleys and screenplays with handwritten notes and fragments; interviews, telegrams, personal photographs, correspondence and audio recordings. The comprehensive collection offers an intimate, in-depth examination into Baldwin’s creative life that spans the entirety of his literary career.

The Baldwin archive is a rich trove of manuscripts, typescripts, and audio tapes, the breadth and depth of which make it indispensable to understanding fully the significance of Baldwin’s career as a writer and as an engaged public man of letters. This archive will enable researchers to trace the textual evolution of virtually all of Baldwin’s writings across his whole career, from notes to his first novel Go Tell It On the Mountain to each of his other novels and essays.

His novels are found in many forms, including heavily reworked manuscript drafts or significant manuscript fragments, typescript drafts with his often copious manuscript annotations, and even dramatic adaptations of Giovanni’s Room. Draft manuscripts and typescripts of his poetry and his important reviews are also present. In addition, the archive contains reel-to-reel tapes, audio cassettes, and other audio media awaiting discovery.

This acquisition places the Schomburg Center as the premier institution for research into James Baldwin’s intellectual, cultural, and social life.

“We are more than excited to have James Baldwin return home to Harlem,” says Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center. “Baldwin’s amazing collection adds to our ever-growing holdings of writers, political figures, artists, and cultural icons across the African diaspora. With the current resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s works and words, and renovation of our own spaces from the main gallery to the Schomburg Shop, the timing couldn’t be better for Baldwin to join us at the Schomburg Center. As a writer myself, I am eager for students, scholars and other writers—I count myself among all three—to have the opportunity to see his profound writing process up close.”

“Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Maya Angelou all have collections at the Schomburg Center and Baldwin was their colleague. His papers not only complement theirs, but offer researchers a fascinating look at the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements, through the works of these seminal figures,” says Steven G Fullwood, Associate Curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.

Items from the Baldwin Archive will be on limited public display from April 13-17 as part of the exhibition The Evidence of Things Seen: Selections from the James Baldwin Papers. Photographs of James Baldwin from the Schomburg’s existing archive will be included in the display.

Highlights from the James Baldwin Archive and The Evidence of Things Seen: Selections from the James Baldwin Papers exhibition include:

  • The Amen Corner playscript with inscriptions and The Amen Corner Playbill with Signatures from the Cast
    The Amen Corner, first published in 1954, is one of two plays written by James Baldwin. Covering topics such as the Black church, poverty, and Harlem, inspiration for, The Amen Corner, was likely drawn from Baldwin’s real life encounters and experiences as the stepson of Harlem preacher, David Baldwin.
  • On Martin Luther King, essay
    In this insightful inscription, Baldwin, recounts his first, and last encounters with his dear friend and fellow freedom fighter, Martin Luther King Jr, one of the three subjects noted in the recent film, I Am Not Your Negro. Here, Baldwin, intimately describes the phone call he received while working on a never released screen adaptation, of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with notable actor, Billy Dee Williams, the notifying him that King had been assassinated.
  • Letter to my Sister, Ms Angela Davis
    “Letter to my Sister, Ms. Angela Davis”, was written by, James Baldwin, in November of 1970, just one month after Davis’ arrest in New York City by FBI agents. In the letter, Baldwin, shares sentiments of solidarity with Davis, and recounts his then recent experiences speak out about her legal case on the radio, television, and in Germany.”
  • Just Above My Head
    These four handwritten notes provide insight into Baldwin’s character development process On these notes, Baldwin jotted down various ideas about, Hal, Arthur, Stanley, and Paul, such as their birthdates, dream states, and locations of birth. Notes on Beauford Delaney Noted Harlem Renaissance painter, Beauford Delaney, has been referred to as the “spiritual father” of James Baldwin. Delaney and Baldwin, first encountered one another when, Baldwin was 15 and fostered an artistic relationship that spanned several decades. Baldwin’s France home became Delaney’s, haven in the latter years of his life.

Exhibition Curator: Alexsandra M. Mitchell, Reference Librarian and Archivist


San Francisco Based Photographer Erica Deeman 

SILHOUETTES

March 8 – June 11

Berkeley Art Museum

Erica Deeman’s series Silhouettes, thirty large-scale photographs of women from the African diaspora. The manner in which these images were shot and printed emphasizes the subjects’ stark silhouettes against a white background; however, these are actually color photographs, and prolonged looking reveals nuances of tone that call into question our initial assumptions about the technique and, by extension, the subjects themselves. Indeed, the artist’s goal is to create complicated expressions of identity analogous to her own journey of self-discovery: of dual English and Jamaican heritage, Deeman (b. 1977) was raised in Nottingham and is now based in San Francisco.

 

BROWN

March 24 - April 28

Anthony Meier Fine Arts Gallery

San Francisco, CA

In her first solo exhibition entitled Brown, Deeman addresses social constructs of identity, gender and race through the lens of portraiture.     

Brown is comprised of a series of 26 x 26 inch archival pigment photographs of men from the African diaspora. Deeman found her subjects by approaching strangers she met through chance encounters and asking friends and acquaintances to sit for portraits in her living room. Deeman placed her models in front of a backdrop matching her own skin color as a way to personally connect to the individual and collective identity of men from the African diaspora.

Brown references the 18th century pseudo-science of Physiognomy (from the Gk. physis meaning “nature” and gnomon meaning “judge” or “interpreter”) suggesting that facial features could be used to understand a person’s character. Together with traditions of classical portraiture, the mug shot, and Physiognomy, Deeman engages the viewer to re-examine the basis of their inherent reading of a face, and ultimately, the being. Deeman’s deeply intimate portraits challenge traditional ideas of beauty, honor and truth by presenting diverse visages that reveal her subject’s personality and stature through her raw and elegant imagery.

Deeman is a recipient of the 2016 TOSA Finalist Award, the 2015 ProArts 2x2 Solos Emerging Artist Finalist Award, and the 2015 Working Artist Grant. Selected public collections include Berkeley Museum of Art and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; and Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, CA.


KQED Arts - A Black History Month Recap Through the Eyes of ‘#BlackInAmerica2017’

By Chloe Veltman, KQED Public Media

“I mostly hang out with people who’re into Reiki, have left-wing anarchist tendencies, and are hypocrites because they love art and design, work in advertising, and enjoy eating at fancy restaurants, just like me.”

So says musician and artist Bryan Collins in response to the question “What identity  —  racial or otherwise  —  do you feel closest to?” in his #BlackInAmerica2017 profile on Medium.

The series of short, insightful interviews with a wide array of creatives, each accompanied by a characterful hand-painted portrait, provides a vibrant cross-section of what it means to be black in the United States today.

The project is the work of Bay Area visual artist George McCalman and writer Ebony Haight. The authors conceived it as a follow up to their #IllustratedBlackHistory series of last year, which explored the lives of lesser-known black pioneers.

With this new series, McCalman and Haight published 28 interviews and accompanying illustrations, one for each day of Black History Month in February.

Now that the series is complete, we asked McCalman about the project, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Why did you choose to embark on this project?

We had a series of conversations about how we viewed Black history, and in the course of discussing it realized we both had an outsiders’ view of our understanding of what “being black” meant. Instead of looking to the past, which is the default this month, we felt that looking to the present and future felt more appropriate.

How did you go about recruiting subjects for this series?

Organically. We started with our network, looking for people whom we were personally curious about. Some people recommended subjects outside of our network and we went from there. We wanted people of different backgrounds and ages, and not just American-born. We did an equal split of men and women.

How has the series been received so far and what are your goals for it?

It’s been a slow build. We’ve posted daily, so it’s evolved as naturally as the project has rolled out. The most interesting notes have come from other black people, who said that it was gratifying hearing others being as conflicted and celebratory as they feel about this topic.

How has the arrival of President Trump in the White house impacted this project?

I hate to credit that event, but it has had an impact. I think the black community, if I can be so bold, wasn’t surprised by Trump’s arrival because it revealed an ugly underbelly of America to the rest of the country that we’ve long known. That being said, it’s a moment in time where we feel ready to answer these kinds of questions by and for ourselves, without outside stimulation or interference.

What is the main message you hope your audience will take away from reading these profiles and looking at these portraits about what it means to be black in America in 2017?

Ebony and I talked about this being an exploration of identity, race and individuality. We were curious if other members of the black community had the same questions and were interested in facing themselves to give honest answers. We live in a self-aware time, with technology giving previously marginalized people a voice. So we’re speaking up.

Now that February and Black History Month are over and the 28 daily profiles are complete, what’s next?

I see this series being an ongoing project. Twenty-eight days doesn’t even begin to tell the story of this incredibly resilient community.


Aperture Magazine - The Vision & Justice Issues

As the United States navigates a political moment defined by the close of the Obama era and the rise of #BlackLivesMatter activism, Aperture magazine releases “Vision & Justice,” a special issue featuring two covers and highlights within is pages the role of photography in the African American experience. 

Inspired by Frederick Douglass’s 1864 speech “Pictures and Progress,” a call to consider the transformative power of pictures in affecting change in the United States, the immense range of images and writing in “Vision & Justice” underscores photography’s unique corrective power and ability to shape a new vision of the country.

“Vision & Justice" is guest edited by the distinguished author and art historian Sarah Lewis.


Diane Arbus: In The Beginning at SFMoMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will present the West Coast debut of the acclaimed exhibition diane arbus: in the beginning, on view through April 30th. Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, diane arbus: in the beginning considers the first seven years of the photographer’s career, from 1956 to 1962. Bringing together over 100 photographs from this formative period, many on display for the first time, the exhibition offers fresh insights into the distinctive vision of this iconic American photographer.

January 21–April 30, 2017


Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943-2016

Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles

October 15, 2016 - February 25, 2017

From zoot suits to sneakers, young people from Los Angeles have shaped their identities through aesthetics, ideologies, and diverse forms of expression. Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943 – 2016 is a multimedia exhibition that traverses eight decades of style, art, and music, and presents vignettes that consider youth culture as a social class, distinct issues associated with young people, principles of social organization, and the emergence of subcultural groups.

 

 

Los Punks: We Are All We Have (official film trailer)

Punk rock is thriving in the backyards of South Central and East Los Angeles. A cobbled-together family of Hispanic/Chicano teens and young adults comprise the scene: bands, fans, production, marketing, and security interwoven into a sub-culture of thrash and noise and pits. The sense of belonging is palpable; emotional bonds fostered among good families and those broken, poverty and wealth, adolescence and maturity, with the music emanating a magnetic chorus for all to sing together. ‘Los Punks: We Are All We Have” is a documentary feature film honestly and sincerely portraying this vibrant ‘DIY’ community.

Currently on Netflix.

 

Alvin Ailey on PBS

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will premiere nationally on PBS on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

As part of their 2016 Arts Fall Festival, PBS brings one of the world’s leading modern dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, to the series Lincoln Center at the Movies. In addition to the moving onstage performances, the television special incorporates behind-the-scenes pre-performance preparation, as well as interviews with several longtime Ailey dancers and artistic team members. They share their personal take on the powerful impact of the Ailey company, describe the importance of each piece performed, and explain why audiences remain connected.

Designated by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” the Ailey Company is known for its spectacular range, diversity, and artistry. The program consists of three dynamic pieces by acclaimed contemporary choreographers: “Chroma” by Wayne McGregor, “Grace” by Ronald K. Brown, and “Takademe” by the company’s Artistic Director Robert Battle.

 


 

Composer Julius Eastman Crashes the Minimalist Canon

Contemporary music has hardly been without significant black and queer artists. But the story of Minimalism, in particular, has been dominated by straight white men — LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass — and Eastman is a vital addition to their company, even if his take on the style was idiosyncratic and perhaps ahead of its time.

A composer of visionary power, a singer with a cavernous bass voice, a collaborator with the diverse likes of Meredith Monk and Pierre Boulez, Eastman had long been a fixture of the New York music scene. His sprawling, propulsive works had titles that ranged from the bluntly provocative (“Crazy Nigger”) to the winking (“If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?”). 

An archival recording of one of his finest pieces, the peculiarly spelled “Femenine,” from 1974, was released last month on the Frozen Reeds label, and it shows what all the fuss was about. Ecstatically bustling, it’s perhaps the most plainly beautiful thing Eastman wrote in a career spent challenging his audiences.

“What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest,” he said in a 1976 interview. “Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest.”

 


Julius Eastman's "Crazy Nigger". Live 2011 (Swaan Produkties - Amsterdam)


 

The Rural Hudson Home of Friend & Designer John Mahoney

Words by Nikki Ridgway. Images by Christian Harder. Originally published by andnorth.com

Words by Nikki Ridgway. Images by Christian Harder. Originally published by andnorth.com

Ten years ago, after an upstate sojourn between city leases, designer John Mahoney decided to settle down for good in his 18th-century Hudson Valley weekend home located in a quiet town about 12 miles east of Hudson’s boutique- and restaurant-lined streets. “Hudson has changed drastically in the last ten years, but I live in a very rural setting that is still all farms and small homes,” says John, a fine artist by trade who made the move to applied art in 2004 with the launch of John Mahoney Designs, a coveted line of Eastern-influenced textiles, tufted rugs, and graphic wallpaper. “There have been very little changes here.”

Originally a one-room schoolhouse dating to 1789, the home has managed to retain a small footprint with an airy entry hall, open living space and kitchen, master bedroom, and an attic studio. And while window views are of an unchanging rural landscape made up of woodlands and working farms, inside, John’s house is continually in motion, from the artwork on the walls to the layout of the furniture. “My interior style is always evolving because life is always changing, so the environment has to change with it,” he says. Constant throughout the house, however, is John’s fondness for violet shades, bold metallics, graphic prints, and, of course, all things Japanese.

A self-confessed Japanophile, John has traveled extensively across the country, speaks conversational Japanese, and is an avid collector of both distinctive Japanese kokeshi dolls and of katagami, paper stencils used for dyeing textiles. “There’s such an art to their creation,” he explains, “they have to be as strong and utilitarian as they are beautiful.” It is an observation that could also describe his home, where every inch of space serves a purpose, where function and design go hand in hand. “As a small house, it has to work hard and adapt to the seasons. In the summer, I move furniture around to make space to open the French doors, and in winter, I bring chairs closer to the stove, find storage for firewood, and layer and remove rugs as the weather dictates.”


 

“We want to take this time to spread some healing in the community, we want to offer the healing hand of music.”

This past weekend while in Chicago I attended the 10th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. One of the most powerful performances came from vocalist Dee Alexander who brought the house down with a song she personally wrote about police brutality. 


 

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago: Kerry James Marshall

MASTRY

April 23 - September 25, 2016

A 35-year retrospective of painter Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955), one of America’s greatest living artists. The exhibit contains nearly 80 paintings, all of which contain images of Black subjects going about their daily business, presented with utter equality and humanity. A deeply accomplished artist, who makes ravishing paintings, Marshall’s strategy was three fold. First, as a young artist he decided to paint only black figures. He was unequivocal in his pursuit of black beauty. His figures are an unapologetic ebony black, and they occupy the paintings with a sense of authority and belonging. Second, Marshall worked to make a wide variety of images populated with black people. This led him to make exquisite portraits, lush landscape paintings, everyday domestic interiors, and paintings that depict historical events, all featuring black subjects as if their activities were completely and utterly normal. Third, Marshall concentrated on painterly mastery as a fundamental strategy. By mastering the art of representational and figurative painting, during a period when neither was in vogue, Marshall produced a body of work that bestows beauty and dignity where it had long been denied.


Kerry James Marshall on his Art

MASTRY opens at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art / New York - October 25, 2016