Open 365 days a year, the VMFA shares its growing collection of African American art all year long. During Black History Month 2020, it’s great time to visit the collection and join the ongoing celebration of African American art, history, and culture.
TALK Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, VMFA, in conversation with Nell Draper-Winston Thu, Jan 30 | 6:30–7:30 pm, $8 (VMFA members $5), Leslie Cheek Theater
VMFA’s Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, curator of Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop, will provide an overview of the exhibition, which features photography by members of the Kamoinge Workshop, an artist collective founded in New York City in 1963. Nell Draper-Winston, sister of photographer Louis Draper, will join Dr. Eckhardt in conversation to discuss her brother’s photographs and his roots in Richmond.
OPEN STUDIO PLUS PERFORMANCE Grandma’s Hands Sun, Feb 2 | 1–4 pm, Free, no tickets required. Art Education Center. Performances in the Atrium 2 pm & 3 pm
Join others as they encounter generational lessons from two sisters with remarkable stories to share from the perspective of the African American South. Through song, stories, and signed poetry, we will learn how women have made an impact on culture through practices passed down from family matriarchs.
RVA Community Makers Art Activity Sun, Feb 2 | 1–4 pm, Free, no tickets required. Art Education Center
During Open Studio Plus Performance, celebrate family with Richmond artist Hamilton Glass and local African American photographers.
Take your digital family portraits onsite at VMFA to become part of a mixed-media public art collaboration. Glass will guide attendees in hands-on participation. You can also capture fun memories in the Family Portrait Photo Booth.
Extending the meaning of family to community, the project also brings together six local photographers—Regina Boone, Courtney Jones, Brian Palmer, Sandra Sellars, Ayasha Sledge, and James Wallace— who will create portraits of six selected community leaders.
FIRST FRIDAY Spirituals, Fri, Feb 7 | 6–8 pm, Free, no tickets required. Atrium
Welcome sopranos Lisa Edwards Burrs and Olletta Cheatham to the First Friday series with an evening of Spirituals. Lisa and Olletta will sing many powerful songs of the genre and explore their resonating impact on history.
DANCE PARTY VMFA After Hours: VMFA Is for Lovers Sat, Feb 15 | 7–11:30 pm, $45/person ($35 VMFA members). Museum wide
Join host Kelli Lemon for a night of art, music, dancing, and love after dark. Catch DJ Lonnie B on the spin in the Marble Hall. Enjoy Legacy Band performing live music in the Atrium. Experience the exhibitions Edward Hopper and the American Hotel and Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop.
All galleries will be open during this event to give you access to our diverse collections of art from around the world.
LIVE JAZZ, Dominion Energy Jazz Café: Jazz Around the Museum. Thu, Feb 13 | 6–9 pm, Free, no tickets required. Marble Hall
Back by popular demand! Who says a Jazz band can’t party, get down, and get funky? Led by saxophonist Robert “Bo” Bohannon, Klaxton Brown combines the old with the new, and will rock you steady all night long. Prepare to get Klaxtonized!
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) today announced the appointment of Christian Larsen to the position of Windgate Research Curator, effective immediately. In this position, funded by the Windgate Charitable Foundation, Larsen will lead an educational and curatorial partnership between the Museum of Arts and Design and Bard Graduate Center (BGC) to increase the visibility of craft and design in art history and the contemporary art world. He replaces Elissa Auther who was named Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator last September.
‘With great enthusiasm, we welcome Christian to the curatorial team at MAD,” said Chris Scoates, Nanette L. Laitman Director. “A respected curator and scholar, his ability to integrate research, teaching, and curating to articulate contemporary concerns and critiques with the craft and design community will prove instrumental in bringing our curatorial vision to life for visitors to our galleries.”
Larsen brings to MAD more than twenty years of research, writing, curating, and teaching experience. His scholarship is grounded in the history of craft and design from the nineteenth century through to the present day, with a focus on Latin American architecture and design. Prior to joining MAD, he had been Associate Curator of Modern Decorative Arts and Design at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (2015–19), where he organized Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical at The Met Breuer (2017). He also served as custodian to one of the most important collections of French Art Deco outside of Paris.
As Curator at the Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, (2013–15), Larsen’s exhibition and catalog Philodendron: From Pan-Latin Exotic to American Modern (2015) received an Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation Exhibition Award. Previously, he worked as Curatorial Assistant in the Architecture and Design Department of the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, (2000–08), where he organized several exhibitions, including Digitally Mastered (2006–07), 50 Years of Helvetica (2007–08), and Ateliers Jean Prouvé (2008–09).
“I am thrilled to accept the position of Windgate Research Curator, a unique opportunity to further the partnership and collaboration between MAD, the Bard Graduate Center, and the Center for Craft in North Carolina. I especially look forward to engaging BGC students in the research and production of exhibition content for MAD,” said Larsen. “This position promises a multi-institutional commitment to exploring the contemporary intersections of art, craft, and design.”
Larsen received a BA from Amherst College (2000), and earned both an MA (2010) and an M.Phil (2013) in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center, where he is a doctoral candidate finishing his dissertation Aquarela do Brasil: Transnational Flows of Brazilian Design and Material Culture.
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) champions contemporary makers across creative fields and presents the work of artists, designers, and artisans who apply the highest level of ingenuity and skill. Since the Museum’s founding in 1956 by philanthropist and visionary Aileen Osborn Webb, MAD has celebrated all facets of making and the creative processes by which materials are transformed, from traditional techniques to cutting-edge technologies. Today, the Museum’s curatorial program builds upon a rich history of exhibitions that emphasize a cross-disciplinary approach to art and design, and reveals the workmanship behind the objects and environments that shape our everyday lives. MAD provides an international platform for practitioners who are influencing the direction of cultural production and driving twenty-first-century innovation, and fosters a participatory setting for visitors to have direct encounters with skilled making and compelling works of art and design. For more information, visit madmuseum.org.
Tour To Include Chicago, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston Starting June 2021
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced a five-city tour next year of the portraits of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, that will launch during the summer of 2021. Next year, in mid-May 2021, the Obama portraits, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, will temporarily go off view from the museum’s exhibitions for tour preparation.
The tour will commence in Chicago, June 18, 2021, and will continue, with the works traveling across the country, through May 30, 2022. This is one of several initiatives being set by the Portrait Gallery to engage communities nationwide throughout the next four years. The artworks are expected to reach millions of people who may not be able to visit Washington, D.C.
“We view the country as our community,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person, but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time. This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience.”
The paintings were commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and revealed in a special unveiling ceremony Feb. 12, 2018, in the presence of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, and the artists. Wiley and Sherald are the first African American artists to have been selected for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a President or First Lady.
In addition to the paintings, the tour will include an audio-visual element, Portrait Gallery-led teacher workshops and curatorial presentations in each location. In anticipation of the tour, the Portrait Gallery is also publishing a book in partnership with Princeton University Press. The Obama Portraits will be released Feb. 11.
With the Obama portraits, the National Portrait Gallery continues its more than 45-year legacy of touring exhibitions. American presidents, in particular, have been the subject of several Portrait Gallery exhibitions. The exhibition “Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century” (1998 to 2000) traveled to several cities as did “Portraits of the Presidents from the National Portrait Gallery” (2000 to 2005). The museum’s acclaimed “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart toured to seven venues in “George Washington: A National Treasure” (2002 to 2004). The National Portrait Gallery’s collection includes more than 1,600 portraits of U.S. presidents and is the nation’s only complete collection of U.S. presidents accessible to the public.
Tour venues include:
Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago—June 18, 2021–Aug. 15, 2021
Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn, New York—Aug. 27, 2021–Oct. 24, 2021
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles—Nov. 5, 2021–Jan. 2, 2022
High Art Museum; Atlanta—Jan. 14, 2022–March 13, 2022
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston—March 25, 2022–May 30, 2022
Six-Week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Explores Art Created between 1980 and the Present, Including Over 70 Artworks from MoMA’s Collection
The Museum of Modern Art has launched the free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?, available now on Coursera. This course offers an in-depth look at over 70 works of art from MoMA’s collection—many of which are currently on view in the expanded Museum—from 1980 to the present, with a focus on art produced in the last decade. Learners will hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. What Is Contemporary Art? can be found at www.mo.ma/whatiscontemporaryart.
What Is Contemporary Art? is organized around five themes: Media from Television to the Internet, Territories & Transit, Materials & Making, Agency, and Power. These themes are explored through artworks drawn from every curatorial department at MoMA. Examples include 3-D–printed glass and fiber sculptures, performances in a factory and a museum, interventions into televisions and video games, painted portraits and those made with artificial intelligence, and explorations of the body and collective actions, among many others.
The course features four new, original films made with Sheila Hicks, Arthur Jafa, Pope.L, and Rael San Fratello, whose works are currently on view in the Museum. Additionally, the course features 30 audio and email interviews with artists in MoMA’s collection, including Beatriz González, Xiao Lu, Dayanita Singh, Amanda Williams, Sheela Gowda, JODI, and Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen, among others. Learners will develop a deeper understanding of both artists’ practices today and some of the many ways they respond to pressing issues and questions of our time.
This course was created by MoMA’s Department of Education, in collaboration with curatorial staff including Sean Anderson, Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design; Erica Papernik, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance; Sophie Cavoulacos, Assistant Curator, Department of Film; Arièle Dionne-Krosnick, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design; and Christian Rattemey.
MoMA has offered free massive open online courses on Coursera since 2012, including three courses for K–12 teachers and courses for general audiences on photography, modern art, abstract painting, and fashion. To date, more than 700,000 learners have enrolled in MoMA courses on Coursera. Since 2011, Volkswagen Group of America has provided crucial support for MoMA’s groundbreaking digital learning initiatives and has helped the Museum reach a worldwide audience of learners. VW’s support has allowed MoMA to expand the reach of its courses from the classroom to digital, and toward interactive, self-guided learning.
Gift represents the largest single donation of photographs in VMFA’s history; VMFA will take over the administration of the Aaron Siskind Fellowship Prize.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has been given an extraordinary gift of more than 8,000 photographs by Aaron Siskind (1903–1991) from the Aaron Siskind Foundation in New York. Established by the artist in 1984, the foundation’s mission has been to preserve and protect Siskind’s artistic legacy, as well as to foster knowledge and appreciation for photography through research, publications, exhibitions and an annual fellowship prize for individual artists. The foundation recently decided to dissolve its operations and transfer the collection to an American art museum that would be willing to administer the annual fellowship prize and care for, interpret, and display the foundation’s core collection of Siskind’s photographs. VMFA was awarded this major gift thanks to the museum’s demonstrated commitment to photography and its outstanding fellowship program. The transfer of the collection to VMFA took place on January 1, 2020.
“After a thorough search of the major art institutions across the country, the Aaron Siskind Foundation was delighted to find that the visionary leadership, ambitious plans for the future, and commitment to carrying on Aaron Siskind’s legacy made VMFA the ideal choice as the new and permanent home for the collection and administration of the Siskind Prize,” says Victor Schrager, President of the Aaron Siskind Foundation.
“With this remarkable donation from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts owns what Siskind and his colleagues considered to be the finest prints of every important work he ever made,” says VMFA Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “Comparable to the key sets of Paul Strand’s photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., this gift also allows VMFA to become an important center for the study and appreciation of Siskind’s life and work, as well as photography in general.”
The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Siskind was born and raised in New York City and graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1926. Three years later, Siskind received a large-format view camera as a wedding gift when he married Sidonie Glatter. He took his first photographs with this camera on their honeymoon in Bermuda in 1930. Siskind later joined the Film and Photo League in New York. Inspired by the social documentary photography that he saw at the Film and Photo League, Siskind spent the next decade working as a street photographer, most notably producing his acclaimed Harlem Document series. In the early 1940s, he shifted to more abstract and symbolic work, often based on found objects.
Siskind supported himself by teaching in the New York public school system until 1949, when he resigned and briefly tried to earn his living as a freelance photographer. Unable to do so, Siskind moved to Chicago at the invitation of fellow photographer Harry Callahan, whom he met in the summer of 1950 at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where they both taught photography. Siskind went on to teach photography at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago from 1951 to 1970. By the 1950s, his work had become widely associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement thanks to his acclaimed photographs of the walls of buildings, whose flat, variegated surfaces enlivened by peeling paint or the remnants of torn posters provided a visual counterpart to the work of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and other painters of the New York School. Siskind’s photographs were shown alongside the paintings of these artists in a series of exhibitions at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York between 1947 and 1951. At a time when photography rarely achieved equality with painting as a fine art, Siskind’s success in the broader New York art scene signaled an important advancement for the medium.
Mutualities, the multidisciplinary artist Cauleen Smith’s first solo show in New York, will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art on February 17. The exhibition includes two films, Sojourner (2018) and Pilgrim (2017), shown in two installation environments newly created for the Whitney, along with a group of new drawings, collectively titled Firespitters (2020).
Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, remarked, “We’re delighted to welcome Cauleen Smith back to the Whitney. With their exquisite atmosphere and construction, Sojourner and Pilgrim offer lyrical views of important figures and sites in Black history, and also look toward a shared future. The show builds a beautiful bridge between the other pillars of our spring exhibition program, pointing to the political concerns of Vida Americana and the spiritual uplift of Agnes Pelton.”
Smith (b. 1967)—whose banners were prominently featured at the Museum in the 2017 Whitney Biennial—draws on poetry, science fiction, non-Western cosmologies, and experimental film to create works that reflect on memory and Afro-diasporic histories.
Cauleen Smith is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work draws upon Black radical thought, structural film, poetry, and science fiction. Born in Riverside, California in 1967, she grew up in Sacramento, and earned a B.A. in Cinema from San Francisco State University and an MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater Film and Television. At UCLA, she studied with the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers, a group of graduate students who started a Black Cinema movement at the university in the mid-1960s. She has made over 40 films, and her first feature length film, Drylongso (1998), premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival before circulating with acclaim to other film festivals. She has had exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, ICA Philadelphia, MASS MoCA, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the New Museum, New York, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and the Kitchen, New York, and was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. She is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2007), the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, Artist Award (2012), the Washington Park Arts Incubator, Arts and Public Life Residency (2013), and the Rauschenberg Residency (2015). She has taught at various universities over the span of the last two decades, and is a Faculty member of Cal Arts School of Art in Los Angeles.
Chrissie Iles, the Whitney’s Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, who has organized the show with Clémence White, senior curatorial assistant, commented, “We are proud to bring together Cauleen Smith’s films, installations, and drawings in an exhibition that articulates an ethics of care, engagement, and generosity. Each element of the show is experienced through another—books written and chosen by poets invited by the artist appear in delicate gouaches; a film tracing a pilgrimage to spiritual sites is bathed in the colored light of the installation surrounding it. The Museum’s recognition of Smith’s long and deeply engaged practice is underlined by our recent acquisition of both films, Sojourner and Pilgrim, which join her banners already in the Whitney’s collection.”
Unfolding across several important sites in Black spiritual and cultural history, the two films in the exhibition weave together writings by women from different eras, including Shaker visionary Rebecca Cox Jackson, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the Black feminist Combahee River Collective of the 1970s, and experimental-jazz composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane, whose music also forms the soundtrack for both films. This gathering of voices enacts a shared Black female subjectivity, the collective strength of which is expressed in Smith’s poetic use of the camera and light as improvisational instruments to reveal how invention, creativity, and generosity can be resources for transformation and regeneration. By placing the title of this exhibition in the plural, Smith draws a connection between the two films while pointing to the idea that what is held in common is never singular.
In Sojourner, a group of women walk in procession through sites including Dockweiler State Beach and Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The women carry translucent orange banners, each emblazoned with part of a text by the jazz composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane (1937–2007). Watts Towers, a cluster of seventeen sculptural spires, served as a symbol of hope and regeneration after surviving the 1965 Watts Rebellion unscathed. Smith locates a similar spirit in assemblage artist Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum in Joshua Tree, California. The women end their procession there, listening to readings of the Black feminist Combahee River Collective, Sojourner Truth (1797–1833), and Alice Coltrane. Their collective voices, echoed in contemporary footage of the Chicago-based activist coalition R3 (Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild.), fuse spirituality and activism into a potent articulation of self-realization and resistance. The actions unfold not only within different sites within the film itself, but in an immersive kaleidoscopic environment of light and seating in the Museum that interconnects the film with a more expansive sense of place and collective presence.
Pilgrim traces the artist’s pilgrimage to three sites: Alice Coltrane’s Turiyasangitananda Vedantic Center in Agoura, California; Watts Towers in Los Angeles; and the Black spiritual activist Rebecca Cox Jackson’s (1795–1871) Watervliet Shaker community in upstate New York. Smith vividly evokes the creative atmosphere of each place, allowing the camera to slowly explore the ashram’s interior and Coltrane’s musical instruments, and using the soft grain and subtle color of Super 8 film to infuse the footage of Watts Towers and the flowers in the Shaker garden with an emotional intimacy. Jackson’s advocacy of racial and gender equality, her fight against the patriarchy of organized religion, and her awareness of the African roots of her faith resonate with Coltrane’s own hybrid, transnational spiritual and musical language. Both women’s challenges to accepted authority are, like the enduring independent spirit of Watts Towers, grounded in a sense of place, community, and generosity that are also hallmarks of Smith’s own transformative work.
The screenings of Smith’s films in High Line Art’s presentation of Signals from Here, organized by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator, will take place from dusk until the park closes, on the High Line at 14th Street. The program includes Three Songs About Liberation (2017), Crow Requiem (2015), Lessons in Semaphore (2015), H-E-L-L-O (2014), and Songs for Earth and Folk (2013).
Screening and Conversation with Cauleen Smith and Michael Gillespie Friday, March 27, 6:30 pm
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Whitney will present a rare screening of Passing Through (1977, 105 min) by LA Rebellion filmmaker Larry Clark, preceded by one of Cauleen Smith’s films. Following the screening, Smith will be in conversation with film scholar Michael Boyce Gillespie, Associate Professor of Film in the Department of Media and Communication Arts and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York, City University of New York.
Tickets required. ($10 adults; $8 members, students, seniors, and visitors with a disability).
Cauleen Smith: Mutualities is part of the Whitney’s emerging artists program, sponsored by Nordstrom. Generous support is provided by The Rosenkranz Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Artists Council.
On View in the Congress Centre Jan. 21 Through Jan. 24
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced that a special exhibition, “Partnering with Nature,” will be on view at the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting, Jan. 21 through Jan. 24 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Drawing from the “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” exhibition originally organized by Cooper Hewitt and Cube design museum, this adaptation is a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the World Economic Forum (WEF). This is the fourth year that the Smithsonian and the WEF have collaborated on bringing an exhibition to the Annual Meeting in Davos. Installed in the Congress Centre, the exhibition will be offered alongside panels, workshops and other sessions organized by the WEF that address the ecological crisis and the Forum’s major focus on sustainability.
“A global platform for design, Cooper Hewitt is delighted to once again collaborate with the World Economic Forum and highlight the power of design to address the most significant environmental issues of our time,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “Through this powerful, interactive exhibition, Cooper Hewitt will invite leaders to rethink our relationship to nature and jumpstart the dialogue on sustainability practices on an international scale.”