Our Journey to One Stop Down
As a high school student, I have had the opportunity to learn about photography at the Studio Museum through a program called Expanding the Walls. It’s an eight-month photography-based residency that immerses high school students, from all over New York City, in the world of photography. This program is specifically unique because we receive cameras and have opportunities to interact with contemporary artists and the James VanDerZee archive, and exhibit our work in the Studio Museum’s galleries.
Finding Themes and Experimenting with Materials
As the sixteen high school students continue on their eight-month, photography-based journey at the Museum through the Expanding the Walls program, they take time to look through and thoroughly discuss work by artists such as Lorna Simpson, Malick Sidibe, Gordon Parks and others to help shed light on the multitude of topics and themes photography can cover. The hope is that in studying these artists, the students gain an introduction to themes that they might later choose to focus their projects on. As emerging artists with newfound creative voices, the students struggle with capturing their experiences, perspectives and comments on their respective themes. Many found themselves stuck when trying to analyze and build upon the themes they have chosen, feeling that their approaches had already been employed in a multitude of projects by other artists.
Samuel Levi Jones & More
For his first solo museum exhibition, Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound, Samuel Levi Jones transforms the Studio Museum's Project Space with a site-specific installation made of dismantled law books. When deconstructed into their basic components—covers and spines—the reference books’ implicit authority symbolically disintegrates. Stitched together in wall-to-wall grids, the fragmented books hang like paintings, emphasizing form and materiality. Once the books are stripped of their identity, their function and value are obscured, even negated. By manipulating law books, Jones engages with recent criticism of the American justice system.
Just the beginning
Not very often will a beginner photographer get an intensive class at a prestigious art school, but that is exactly what happened for the 2015 class of Expanding the Walls. Many of the participating students came to the program without any previous knowledge of photography. Slightly overwhelmed, some of the students worried about how they would capture images with a high tech camera. While a few students had some experience in photography, they still lacked an in-depth understanding of the camera’s workings. So to ease the students into using their cameras and the world of photography, Isaac Diggs, photography professor at Schools of Visual Arts, lent a helping hand. Throughout the month of February, ETW class sessions took place at the SVA campus, where Diggs led an intensive class covering the technicalities of the camera as well as the bases of black and white darkroom photography.
Watch it here!
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.