Spencer Crew, interim director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, released the following statement on the death of noted mathematician and one of NASA’s “human computers,” Katherine Johnson.
It is with deep sadness that we at the National Museum of African American History and Culture mourn the passing of noted NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. She played a key role on the 1969 Apollo 11 space team, calculating the precise trajectories that would make it possible for the U.S. to land a crew safely on the moon. The critically important work she performed moved our country forward in a compelling way as we charted a bold course in space travel. It also broke barriers for women in science and mathematics.
From her earliest childhood Johnson counted things. “I counted everything: the steps, the dishes, the stars in the sky,” Johnson once said, recalling her youth. The youngest of four children of a farmer and a schoolteacher, Johnson was born into a household that valued education. Since there was no school for African American children in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Johnson and her siblings attended a laboratory school at West Virginia State Institute, a historically black college. At 15, Johnson enrolled at West Virginia State earning a degree in math education and French.
Johnson was one of three black students selected to integrate West Virginia University’s graduate program. After a brief time, she left school to start family and to teach. In 1952, Johnson learned about a program that would change the course of her life. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Langley Aeronautical Laboratory (now known as NASA and the Langley Research Center) was hiring black women mathematicians to be “human computers” to check calculations for technological developments. In 1953, Johnson began her new job working as a member of a computing group; however, her inquisitive nature and boldness won her a place in Langley’s flight research division. Known for her mathematical accuracy, Johnson performed calculations for several historic NASA missions, including the first manned mission to the moon.
Despite being born into an era when professional opportunities for women of color were scarce, Johnson quietly rose above the odds stacked against her. She and other African American women at NASA were consigned to a separate office, dining and bathroom facilities, but over time Johnson’s work won her acceptance. When recalling her time at NASA, Johnson insisted that she never struggled with feelings of inferiority. She knew she was just as good as the next person.
After retiring from NASA, Johnson became a strong advocate for mathematics education. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and a NASA research facility is named in her honor. Her story has been told in the bestselling book and feature-length film Hidden Figures.
Johnson will forever be remembered for her work with NASA and as a pioneering force for women of color in science, technology, engineering and math.
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 6 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit www.nmaahc.si.edu, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.
Performances to Feature Two Exciting Double Bills: Legendary Producers and Songwriters T Bone Burnett and Joe Henry on November 13; and Grammy Award-Winning Artists The Fairfield Four and Ranky Tanky on February 25
Carnegie Hall has announced the all-star lineup of artists for two exciting double-bill American Byways concerts to be presented in Zankel Hall in the 2020–2021 season. Curated and hosted by singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash (who was a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist in the 2015–2016 season), these one-of-a kind performances take New York audiences on a journey through American roots music, featuring Appalachian traditions, the blues, and more.
On Friday, November 13, 2020 at 9:00 p.m., Cash brings together two iconic producers and songwriters––T Bone Burnett and Joe Henry—for a very special concert. Renowned for producing ground-breaking albums by artists including Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, and Elton John, Burnett was also behind the soundtrack for films like Walk the Line and O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Mentored in part by Burnett, Joe Henry has earned acclaim for producing albums by artists including Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, and Rhiannon Giddens (whom Burnett has worked with as well). For this rare double bill performance, Burnett’s fluid guitar-playing and thoughtful songwriting is paired with Henry’s deeply personal and marvelously eclectic style of storytelling with inflections of rock, folk, country, and jazz.
Multiple Grammy and Academy Award winner Joseph Henry “T Bone” Burnett is a producer, musician and songwriter. Known recently for composing and producing music for the critically acclaimed HBO series True Detective, his film work includes the five-time Grammy winning soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Cold Mountain, The Hunger Games, Crazy Heart and Walk The Line, amongst others. He has collaborated with numerous artists including Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison and won Album of the Year and Record of the Year Grammy Awards for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Joe Henry has left an indelible and unique imprint on American popular music. As a songwriter and artist, Mr. Henry is celebrated for his exploration of the human experience. A hyper-literate storyteller, by turns dark, devastating, and hopeful, he draws an author’s eye for the overlooked detail across a broad swath of American musical styles—rock, jazz and blues—rendering genre modifiers useless.
Mr. Henry has collaborated with many notable artists on his own body of work, including Don Cherry and T Bone Burnett (Shuffletown, 1990), Victoria Williams and the Jawhawks‘s Gary Louris and Marc Perlman (Kindness of the World, 1993), guitarists Page Hamilton (Trampoline, 1996), Daniel Lanois and Jakob Dylan (Fuse, 1999), Ornette Coleman, Brad Mehldau, Marc Ribot, Brian Blade, and Meshell Ndegeocello (Scar, 2001), Bill Frisell and Van Dyke Parks (Civilians, 2007), Jason Moran (Blood From Stars, 2009), Lisa Hannigan (Invisible Hour, 2014).
Celebrated Trumpeter Sean Jones Leads Ensemble with Grammy Award-Winning Vocalist Dianne Reeves as Special Guest
First-Ever Tour to Africa by One of Carnegie Hall’s Three Acclaimed National Youth Ensembles to Include Debut Performances in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Makhanda, and Bloemfontein, June 24-July 7, 2020
This June and July, Carnegie Hall’s critically-acclaimed national youth jazz orchestra—NYO Jazz—returns for its third season of extraordinary music-making, highlighted by its first-ever tour to South Africa from June 24-July 7, 2020. This remarkable ensemble, created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in 2018, annually brings together some of the most outstanding teen jazz musicians from across the United States to train, perform, and tour with some of the world’s greatest artists while also serving as music ambassadors for their country.
NYO Jazz’s historic visit to South Africa—to include debut performances in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Makhanda, and Bloemfontein—marks the first time that one of Carnegie Hall’s three acclaimed national youth ensembles will perform on the African continent. It follows successful international tours by NYO Jazz to some of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls and music festivals in 2018, and the ensemble’s debut tour to Asia in 2019.
Celebrated trumpeter Sean Jones returns to lead NYO Jazz in 2020. He is joined by iconic jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves as special guest. These NYO Jazz concerts will offer a rare chance to hear the five-time Grammy Award winning vocalist performing with a big band, singing jazz standards in arrangements that have been especially made for her. The ensemble’s diverse repertoire will also feature a new composition by John Beasley, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for this tour, and other contemporary pieces that explore jazz’s influence on hip-hop, R&B, and pop music alongside big band standards.
“We are thrilled to have NYO Jazz make its debut in South Africa this summer—the first visit to Africa by any of our national youth ensembles” said Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall. “Given South Africa’s extraordinarily rich music traditions, which include a deep passion for jazz, we know this tour will be a tremendous opportunity for musical and cultural discovery for these amazing young players. We are proud to showcase their incredible depth of talent and the high level of musicianship found across the United States as we find ways to connect the members of NYO Jazz with young musicians and music lovers across the country.”
NYO Jazz’s 2020 tour will offer America’s finest young musicians the opportunity to experience the richness of South Africa’s culture and history while sharing their remarkable artistry with audiences throughout the country. Complementing their performances, the players’ schedule will also include exciting opportunities for cultural exchange and peer-to-peer activities with local young people, an element that has become a hallmark of international tours by all three of Carnegie Hall’s national youth ensembles.
In Fall 2020, A Lifetime Retrospective Dedicated To Jasper Johns Will Be Presented Simultaneously In New York And Philadelphia
In an unprecedented collaboration, this major exhibition is jointly organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art
October 28, 2020–February 21, 2021
The most ambitious retrospective to date of the work of Jasper Johns, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, will be presented simultaneously in New York and Philadelphia this fall. A single exhibition in two venues, this unprecedented collaboration, Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror, will be the artist’s first major museum retrospective on the East Coast in nearly a quarter century. It opens concurrently in Philadelphia and in New York on October 28, 2020. Visitors who attend the exhibition at one venue will enjoy half-price adult admission at the other when presenting their ticket. And throughout the duration of the exhibition, members of each institution will receive free admission at both venues. (Additional details will be available at whitney.org and philamuseum.org.)
Filling almost 30,000 combined square feet across the two venues, the exhibition will contain nearly 500 works. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Johns, creating an opportunity to highlight not only his well-known masterpieces but also many works that have never been exhibited publicly. Conceived around the principles of mirroring and doubling that have long been a focus of the artist’s work, this two-part exhibition, which follows a loose chronological order from the 1950s to the present, offers an innovative curatorial model for a monographic survey. It will chronicle Johns’s accomplishments across many mediums—including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, working proofs, and monotypes—and highlight the complex relationships among them.
Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, commented, “We are delighted to present this unique retrospective together with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an important occasion for both museums, which have had connections with the artist going back decades. The Whitney has been collecting and showing Johns since the 1960s and we are thrilled to honor his ninetieth birthday in 2020, which also marks the ninetieth anniversary of the Whitney’s founding. Enigmatic, poetic, rich, and profoundly influential, Johns’s work is always ripe for reexamination.”
“Given the crucial place that Jasper Johns holds in the art of our time, this collaboration enables our two museums, together, to examine the artist’s vision in all its multiplicity and depth,” added Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO, Philadelphia Museum of Art. “The Philadelphia Museum of Art has long dedicated a gallery to the display of Johns’s work, which, given his admiration of Cézanne and Duchamp, richly resonates with our collection. Along with our colleagues at the Whitney, we hope to introduce a new generation of visitors in our respective cities to the exceptional achievements of this artist over the course of a career that now spans nearly seven decades.”
Jasper Johns (b. Augusta, Georgia, 1930) grew up in South Carolina where he pursued an interest in art at an early age. He attended the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in 1948, and briefly attended Parsons School of Design. For two years he served in the army and was stationed in South Carolina and Japan. He returned to New York in 1953, where he met Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham, with whom he would famously collaborate. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives and solo shows, including Jasper Johns: A Retrospective at the Jewish Museum (1964), Jasper Johns at the Whitney (1977), Jasper Johns: Works Since 1974 at the PMA (1988–89, which traveled to the Venice Biennale, where Johns was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement), Jasper Johns: A Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1996–97, the last comprehensive East Coast survey), and most recently Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth’ at the Royal Academy, London, and The Broad, Los Angeles (2017–18). The innovative collaboration and structure of the Whitney and PMA’s retrospective distinguishes it from these previous shows and will account not only for the complexity and originality of Johns’s body of work at a new scale, but also will seek to test some of the conventional perceptions of it.
Since the early 1950s, Jasper Johns (b. 1930) has produced a radical and varied body of work distinguished by constant reinvention. In his twenties, Johns created his now-canonical Flag (1954–55), which challenged the dominance of Abstract Expressionism by integrating abstraction and representation through its direct, though painterly, deadpan visual power. His works have continued to pose similar paradoxes—between cognition and perception, image and object, painting and sculpture—and have explored new approaches to abstraction and figuration that have opened up perspectives for several generations of younger artists. Over the course of his career, he has tirelessly pursued an innovative body of work that includes painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, books, and the design of sets and costumes for the stage.
The exhibition is conceived as a unified whole, comprising two autonomous parts, and is co-curated by two longtime scholars who each has a close relationship with the artist: Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the PMA, and Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator at the Whitney. Basualdo noted, “We attempted to create an exhibition that echoes the logic of Johns’s work, and it is structured in a mimetic relation to his practice. Galleries at each venue will serve as cognates, echoes, and inversions of their counterparts at the other, allowing viewers to witness and experience the relationships between continuity and change, fragment and whole, singularity and repetition which Johns has used throughout his career to renew and transform his work.”
Rothkopf said, “One of our primary aims was to revivify the incredible sense of daring and discovery at the heart of Johns’s art. He stunned the establishment as a young man but continues to astonish audiences with surprising new ideas as he nears ninety. Surveying the whole of his career, we see an artist propelled by curiosity, constantly challenging himself—and all of us.”