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Reflections from an Artist-in-Residence Program Alumnus

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

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  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya
    Studio, 2014
    Courtesy the artist

  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya
    Darren, 2011
    Courtesy the artist

  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya
    Looking at Alex, 2014
    Courtesy the artist

As an intern in the Curatorial department at The Studio Museum in Harlem, I have the opportunity to explore how the Museum functions behind the scenes. At work, it is exciting to observe how our curators harness the power that exhibitions and their surrounding discourse possess in order to activate art as a social and political tool. Selecting artists and framing their work in relation to broader thematic concerns is one of a curator’s primary responsibilities, and I am especially interested in the long-term relationships between our curators and the artists. The Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum, founded in 1968, provides an excellent example of the close working relationships between curators and creators. One of my projects at the Museum is to manage a database of information concerning AIR alumni.

Studio Visit

Sadie Barnette, 2014–15 AIR

  • Courtesy the artist

In the third of a series of three blog posts, Curatorial Intern Mallory Cohen writes about her studio visits with each of the current artists in residence. Read Mallory's previous posts here and here.

Studio Visit

Eric Mack, 2014–15 AIR

  • Courtesy the artist

In the second of a series of three blog posts, Curatorial Intern Mallory Cohen writes about her studio visits with each of the current artists in residence. Read Mallory's first post here.

Eric Mack’s works shuttle between humor and a heady abstract expressionism, and his art offers neither legibility nor instant gratification. The payoff that sustained engagement with his work yields, however, is more than enough reward.

Studio Visit

Lauren Halsey, 2014–15 AIR

  • Courtesy the artist

In the first of a series of three blog posts, Curatorial Intern Mallory Cohen writes about her studio visits with each of the current artists in residence.

As I stepped into Lauren Halsey’s studio on the third floor of the Studio Museum, I was immediately struck by the artist’s impressive—and large—ambitions. An eight-by-twelve-foot square of sheetrock takes up the vast majority of Halsey’s studio floor, leaving only a small walkway around its perimeter. The sheetrock is split into two-by-two-foot squares, which feature ancient Egyptian iconography mixed with carvings of Harlem and Los Angeles. Images of sarcophagi and the pyramids stand stand-by-side with phone numbers, corporate signage and portraits of LA citizens—symbols of the urban present elevated alongside mythological expressions of the past.

Questions with Artists

Tiffany Barber talks to Manuel Mathieu

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  • Manuel Mathieu

    Spooky in Marketplace (performance view), 2013

    Courtesy the artist

    Photo: Josué Azor

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Another one, 2014

    Neon mounted on Plexiglas

    18 × 24 in.

    Courtesy the artist

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Mattress, 2013

    Mixed media

    54 × 42 in.

    Courtesy the artist

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Dans le Bain/In the bath, 2014

    Mixed media

    7 × 7 ft.

    Courtesy the artist

    Photo: Guy L’heureux

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Home (performance view), 2013

    Courtesy the artist

    Photo: Josué Azor

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Spooky North (performance view), 2013

    Courtesy the artist

    Photo: Josué Azor

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Camille (film still), 2015

    Courtesy the artist

  • Manuel Mathieu

    Camille (film still), 2015

    Courtesy the artist

“Repetition” and “recirculation” are words typically associated with mid-twentieth century representational practices. From silkscreen prints to text-based neon works, artists such as Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, Bruce Nauman, Tracey Emin and Glenn Ligon have contested the rise of consumerism in popular media and culture. Now, the sites in which images are made and circulated have multiplied, as well as the means by which we invest images with values to correspond to our identities. What are the stakes of representation and artmaking in this ‘new media’ landscape?

Studio Visit

Ayana V. Jackson

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  • Does the Brown Paper Bag Test ... ... Really Exist?/ Will my Father be Proud? (from the "Archival Impulse" series), 2013

     

    Courtesy the artist and Gallery MOMO

  • Don't Hide the Blade/ How do you think their women dress? (from the "Archival Impulse" series), 2013

     

    Courtesy the artist and Gallery MOMO

  • Death (from the "Poverty Pornography" series), 2011

     

    Courtesy the artist and Gallery MOMO

  • Dis Ease (from the "Poverty Pornography" series), 2011

     

    Courtesy the artist and Gallery MOMO

  • Dictatorship (from the "Poverty Pornography" series), 2012

     

    Courtesy the artist and Gallery MOMO

  • On Fire (video still), 2014

     

    Courtesy Dean Hutton in collaboration with Dorky Park

  • The Dorky Park On Fire Cast, 2014

     

    Courtesy Dean Hutton in collaboration with Dorky Park

  • The Dorky Park On Fire Cast, 2014

     

    Courtesy Dean Hutton in collaboration with Dorky Park

Per the gracious introduction of Thomas Lax, I had the opportunity to meet and visit with Ayana V. Jackson some time ago. We first met in Berlin, where Ayana graciously guided me around the city. Jackson, a US American and graduate of Spelman College, splits her time between Johannesburg, New York and Paris, where we followed up a few weeks later to discuss her work and artistic practice. Her photography and filmmaking, while simultaneously alluring and shocking, serve a higher conceptual function: a bitingly intelligent elucidation of the power of the image, the scars of history and the internalized architectures of difference built thereof.  Confronting what she terms the “original sin of images,” Jackson manipulates her own body as subject, creating a running critique of socialized perceptions of race, gender and class and their intersections. 

Studio Visit

Alexis Peskine

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  • Inside Alexis Peskine's studio
    Photo: Martha Scott Burton

  • Inside Alexis Peskine's studio
    Photo: Martha Scott Burton

  • Alexis Peskine
    Désintégration, 2011
    Courtesy the artist

  • Alexis Peskine
    Liberty Leading, Equality Leaving, 2011
    Courtesy the artist

Artist Alexis Peskine (b. 1979) focuses on questions of national and racial identity, the black body experience, and universal emotions. Peskine moved to the United States to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he received a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Digital Art in 2004.  He then enrolled in Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) on a Fulbright Scholarship (the first foreign student to be awarded this honor), where he completed his MFA. His influences are wide-ranging, including Kara Walker, Takashi Murakami, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy, as is his approach to art-making and his chosen materials.

Breath and Body

Questions for performance artist Dave McKenzie

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  • Dave McKenzie
    Dave, 2010
    Image courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

  • Dave McKenzie
    Dave, 2010
    Image courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

  • Thomas Lax, Studio Museum Assistant Curator and organizer of Darker than the Moon, Smaller than the Sun, diagrams highlights of McKenzie's history as a performance artist

  • Dave McKenzie
    We Shall Overcome (video still), 2004
    Courtesy the artist

On February 20 and 21, 2014, Dave McKenzie performs his retrospective Darker than the Moon, Smaller than the Sun. The performance is part of the live programs series organized on the occasion of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, currently on view through March 9, 2014 at the Studio Museum.

Terry Adkins

1953–2014

  • Terry Adkins performing at the Studio Museum
    November 13, 2013
    Photo: Will Ragozzino

The staff and trustees of The Studio Museum in Harlem mourn the tragic loss of a great artist, musician, teacher and performer. Terry Adkins was one of the most innovative artists of his generation, combining a musical and lyrical approach to visual art with a deep investment in the individuals who shaped American history and a fascination with material culture. The Studio Museum is proud to have had a long association with him dating back to his participation in the Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program in 1982–83. His legacy will live on not only through his incredible body of work, but also through the lives and work of the many students he mentored during his tenure as a beloved Fine Arts professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Marvelous Dandies

Allison Janae Hamilton presents her foppish subjects in lush landscapes

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  • In “Kingdom of the Marvelous,” Hamilton references thematic elements of traditional fashion portraiture to challenge how contemporary fashion photography has characterized the black male body as a symbol of the urban street.

  • “Kingdom” dislocates bodies from predetermined landscapes, relocating them in worlds where anything is possible and characters delight in spaces that are often inaccessible to them in real life.

  • Hamilton draws from her own childhood memories—some tangible, others fantastical—as a basis for her whimsical backdrops and thematic elements. Signifiers such as taxidermy, lace, flowers, veils, tambourines, church fans and other ornaments animate these memories.

When I look at the new work of Harlem-based photographer Allison Hamilton, a series entitled "Kingdom of the Marvelous," counterintuitively I think about the folkloric tale of John Henry, the legendary steel driver who tried to prove his worth by successfully outpacing an industrial machine. Perhaps not the work itself makes me think of the story, but something she said to me during a recent studio visit: “I wanted to place black men in a setting other than the usual urban landscape where they always seem to be at odds, even struggling against it.” Like the themes in the story, Hamilton is working with the tension between masculinity and its relationship to the land the black body versus its environs.