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Ralph Ellison lived in Harlem from the late 1930s until his death on April 16, 1994. He was a prominent figure in the neighborhood’s overlapping literary and artistic communities. Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man honors this legacy through a landmark collaboration between two leading Harlem-based cultural institutions. The participating artists in the program have been specially curated by the Studio Museum and the Schomburg Center teams, following in both institutions’ tradition of exploring Harlem as a site for artistic and literary creation.
Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man is organized by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The Studio Museum in Harlem with the generous support of the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust.
Sonia Boyce: Untitled, 2006
In her 2006 etching Untitled, Sonia Boyce pays tribute to fourteen black female luminaries in British music history. Performers featured in the composition include Dame Shirley Bassey, DBE, Welsh pop singer known for recording several James Bond movie theme songs, such as the title theme for Goldfinger (1964); Adelaide Hall, American-born and UK-based jazz singer; Millie Small, Jamaican singer-songwriter who topped pop charts in the mid-1960s with her song “My Boy Lollipop”; Cleo Laine, British actress and Grammy award-winning singer, among others. The act of assembling such a collection, according to Boyce, is not intended to represent the musicians; rather, it is a nod to the collective memory built by their diverse audiences. The sinewy lines enshrining the names resemble connective tissue or sonic reverberations, suggesting that the artist’s personal act of inscription is also a making of a body of musical history.
Holding Court at The Studio Museum in Harlem
On a regular Thursday evening passers-by walking down 125th Street will occasionally stop to look through the glass windows of the Studio Museum's atrium. It is not unusual to see people of all backgrounds stop and meander, trying to get a quick peek to glimpse at what is going on inside the museum. Theaster Gates's See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court (2012), currently housed in the Atrium, has garnered considerable attention since its installation in plain view of 125th Street on the occasion of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. An installation comprising classroom materials sourced from the recently closed Crispus Attucks Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago, See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court is designed as a learning tool, encouraging interactivity, community engagement and friendly exchange.
Summer 2013 Curatorial Intern Martha Scott Burton reflects on her time at Studio Museum
One of Studio Museum’s many partners is the ARTS Intern program, developed by the nonprofit organization Studio in a School, through which college undergraduate students from diverse cultural backgrounds gain work experience at some of New York’s most exciting and influential institutions. It is through this program that I have had the privilege of working as a Curatorial Intern over the past 9 weeks at the Studio Museum—certainly one of my most rewarding and educational experiences to date.
Growing up in a small Midwestern town (one of the many Springfields in Tornado Alley) with the closest major art institution over 4 hours away, I thought art history majors necessarily became teachers. But after moving to the city, where museums, galleries and auction houses are abundant, and after working at the Studio Museum, whose mission is pursued with singular energy, a whole new world opened up, almost at a flashpoint.
Houston Conwill's The Joyful Mysteries (1984–2034 A.D.)
The Joyful Mysteries (1984–2034 A.D.) (1984) are seven bronze time capsules created by Houston Conwill (b. 1947) and contain confidential testaments by seven distinguished black Americans: visual artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988); historian Lerone Bennett, Jr. (b. 1928); the first African-American mayor of Gary, Indiana, Richard Gordon Hatcher (b. 1933); attorney, activist and current United States Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (b. 1937); writer Toni Morrison (b. 1931); and opera singer Leontyne Price (b. 1927). The capsules will be opened in September 2034, fifty years after their creation. The time capsules were originally buried in the Studio Museum’s sculpture garden on August 12, 1984 with the assistance of ten New York City school children and were moved to their current location on the Museum's lower level in March 2013.
History on Paper
As a Curatorial Intern at the Studio Museum in Harlem, it has been exciting to work behind the scenes as part of the planning process of exhibitions supporting the Museum’s mission as a site for the dynamic exchange of ideas about art and society. One of my favorite moments during my internship happened when I first glimpsed into the archives of earlier exhibitions that have happened here. Brochures, pamphlets, and other didactic materials used in promoting the exhibitions on view are meant to be taken by visitors for additional information, but are not necessarily made to be kept. The ephemeral nature of these materials, often printed on paper and easily recyclable, means that they are not often saved long enough to be able to review at a later period.
This issue includes covers by artists Kianja Strobert and David Hartt; a conversation between David Hartt, Thelma Golden and Thomas J. Lax about his upcoming Spring 2013 exhibition at Studio Museum; an introduction to our 2012-13 Artists in Residence; a report from dOCUMENTA (13); and commentaries on inspiration from the artists featured in Fore.
Visit the Museum Store now through December 31, 2012 to view the culmination of the 2011 Kwanzaa Community Quilt Project. Members and visitors to the Studio Museum began constructing the quilt December 2011 during Target Free Sunday workshops to celebrate the core Kwanzaa values of Culture, Creativity, and Unity. Interest grew and the project continued until August 2012 under the volunteer leadership of Ife Felix, founding member of the Harlem Girls Quilt Circle. We hope all will enjoy this labor of love and community.
An Antebellum African-American Artist
There are only two weeks left to see a fantastic exhibition here in New York City: Robert S. Duncanson: An Antebellum African-American Artist, on view at Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery through December 8.
This past month London was bustling with art openings, projects, and performances, all a part of a phenomenon known as “Frieze.” From October 11–14, Regent’s Park played host to the Frieze art fair, presenting over 170 international contemporary galleries as well as a prestigious program of artist commissions and talks. Now in its tenth edition, Frieze London continues to be one of the art highlights of the year, generating a week filled with not only lucrative transactions, but also creative expression and critical awareness.
Notably, works by many Studio Museum in Harlem artists were prominently featured throughout the fair grounds. Here are some highlights of pieces by artists involved at the Museum, either through being represented in our Permanent Collection or having participated in our acclaimed Artist-in-Residence program. Enjoy!