America Is Hard to See: Film & Video Screenings at The Whitney Museum of American Art

As part of the landmark exhibition America Is Hard to See, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents a screening series showcasing films and videos from the Museum’s collection by approximately fifty artists. Programs screen on select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the Susan and John Hess Family Theater on the Museum’s third floor. Special Saturday evening events feature expanded cinema performances and rare screenings of works on film.

SCREENING SCHEDULE

Nayland Blake (b. 1960), still from Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound, 30 min. looped. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Lin Lougheed  2014.268 © Nayland Blake 1994; image courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Nayland Blake (b. 1960), still from Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound, 30 min. looped. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Lin Lougheed 2014.268 © Nayland Blake 1994; image courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Normal Love
July 3, 11 am
August 22, 7 pm
September 6, 4 pm

In Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1962–63), David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly (1986–87), Nayland Blake’s Negative Bunny (1994), and Kenneth Anger’s Mouse Heaven (2005), intense desire is often expressed through indirect means, including role-playing and emulation or appropriation of popular culture.

Jack Smith  (b. 1932, Colombus, OH; d. 1989; New York, NY), Flaming Creatures, 1962–63. 16mm film, black‑and‑white, sound, 43 min. Gift of Gladstone Gallery, New York 2010.209

David Wojnarowicz (b. 1954, Red Bank, NJ; d. 1992, New York, NY), A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) and A Fire In My Belly (Excerpt), 1986–87. Super 8mm film transferred to video, black‑and‑white and color, silent, 13:06 min. and 7 min. Purchase with funds from the Director’s Discretionary Fund 2012.4

Nayland Blake (b. 1960, New York, NY), Negative Bunny, 1994. Video, color, sound; 30 min. Gift of Lin Lougheed 2014.268

Kenneth Anger (b. 1927, Santa Monica, CA), Mouse Heaven, 2005. Video, color, sound; 10 min. Gift of the artist 2006.226

Mike Kelley (1954-2012), still from Day Is Done, 2005-2006. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Randy Slifka  2009.128 © Estate of Mike Kelley; Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Mike Kelley (1954-2012), still from Day Is Done, 2005-2006. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Randy Slifka 2009.128 © Estate of Mike Kelley; Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

Day Is Done
July 3, 2 pm
August 16, 11 am
September 19, 1 pm

Mike Kelley based his 2005–6 Day is Done on a series of high school yearbook photographs of “extracurricular activities,” which Kelley transformed into a fractured, quasi-narrative musical that cycles through themes such as personal trauma, the structure of the institution, repressed memory, mass cultural ritual, and adolescence.

Mike Kelley (b. 1954, Detroit, MI; d. 2012, South Pasadena, CA) Day Is Done, 2005–6. Video, color, sound; 169 min. Purchase with funds from Randy Slifka 2009.128

Matt Saunders (b. 1975), still from Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color; 10:45 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81 © 2015 Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders (b. 1975), still from Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color; 10:45 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81 © 2015 Matt Saunders

The Art of Vision
July 3, 8 pm
August 21, 11 am
September 19, 5 pm

The program includes Julie Murray’s Untitled (light) (2002), Sandra Gibson’s NYC Flower Film (2003), Stan Brakhage’s Chinese Series (2003), Bryan Frye’s Oona’s Veil (2000), Luis Recoder’s Linea (2002), and Matt Saunders’s Century Rolls (2012). Examining the material and formal conditions of film, video, and animation, these artists build on the tradition of American avant-garde filmmaking. On September 19, Sandra Gibson’s NYC Flower Film will be screened on film, and Gibson will be present.

Brian Frye (b. 1974, San Francisco, CA), Oona’s Veil, 2000. 16mm film, black and white, sound; 11 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2002.160

Julie Murray (b. 1961, Dublin, Ireland), Untitled (light), 2002. 16mm film, color, sound; 5 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2004.46

Luis Recoder (b. 1971, San Francisco, CA), Linea, 2002. Two channel 16mm film, black and white, silent; 18 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee 2005.23

Sandra Gibson (b. 1968, Portland, OR), NYC Flower Film, 2003. Super 8 film transferred to video, color, silent; 5 min. Purchase with funds from George Kaufman 2004.642

Stan Brakhage (b. 1933, Kansas City, MO; d. 2003; Victoria, Canada), Chinese Series, 2003. 16mm film, color, silent; 2 min. Purchase, with funds from the Orentreich Family Foundation  2005.119

Matt Saunders (b. 1975; Tacoma, WA) Century Rolls, 2012. Video, color, silent; 10:45 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2013.81

Maya Deren (1917-1961), still from At Land, 1944. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent, 15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.45 © Estate of Maya Deren; image courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Maya Deren (1917-1961), still from At Land, 1944. 16mm film, black-and-white, silent, 15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2015.45 © Estate of Maya Deren; image courtesy Anthology Film Archives

Dream States
July 4, 11 am
August 16, 3 pm
September 6, 2 pm

Made in the 1940s, Maya Deren’s At Land (1944) and Hans Richter’s Dreams that Money Can Buy (1947) draw on dream imagery and surrealism to produce non-narrative experimental cinema.

Maya Deren (b. 1917, Kiev, Ukraine; d. 1961, New York, NY) At Land, 1944. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 15 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.45

Hans Richter (b. 1888, Berlin, Germany; d. 1976, Minusio, Switzerland) Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1943. 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 85 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  T.2014.151

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934), still from Five Easy Pieces, 1966-69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 48 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program  2011.91 © Yvonne Rainer; courtesy Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934), still from Five Easy Pieces, 1966-69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent; 48 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program 2011.91 © Yvonne Rainer; courtesy Video Data Bank, http://www.vdb.org

Inner and Outer Territories
July 4, 3 pm
August 21, 2 pm
September 6, 11 am

The social and psychological space presented in Yvonne Rainer’s Five Easy Pieces (1966–69) and David Lamelas’s The Desert People (1974) is set against the landscape of the deserts of the American West represented in Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1978) and Walter De Maria’s Hardcore (1969).

Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934, San Francisco, CA), Five Easy Pieces, 1966–69. 8mm and 16mm film transferred to video, black‑and‑white, silent, 48 min. Purchase with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo in honor of Ron Clark and The Independent Study Program  2011.91

Walter De Maria (b. 1935, Albany, CA; d. 2013, Los Angeles, CA), Hardcore, 1969. Two‑channel 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 28 min. Gift of Virginia Dwan  94.79

David Lamelas (b. 1946, Buenos Aires, Argentina), The Desert People, 1974. 16mm film, color, sound; 52 min. Gift of the artist  2001.238

Nancy Holt (b. 1938, Worcester, MA; d. 2014, New York, NY), Sun Tunnels, 1978. 16mm film transferred to video, color, sound, 28:31 min. Purchase with funds from Cristina Enriquez‑Bocobo in honor of Cody Smith  2010.142

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), still from Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.35 © Howardena Pindell

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), still from Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2015.35 © Howardena Pindell

Radical Takes
July 4, 6 pm
August 23, 11 am
August 30, 4 pm

Made at the height of the feminist movement, Howardena Pindell’s Free, White and 21 (1980), Cynthia Maughan’s sixteen selected videos (1973–78), and Suzanne Lacy’s Learn Where the Meat Comes From (1976) present frank, derisive, and at times humorous commentary on identity, including female subjectivity, and—in Pindell’s case—race.

Howardena Pindell (b. 1943, Philadelphia, PA), Free, White and 21, 1980. Video, color, sound; 12:15 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.35

Cynthia Maughan (b. 1949, Bell, CA), Scar/Scarf, 1973–74; Arteries and Veins, 1974; Frozen & Buried Alive, 1974–75; Coffin from Toothpicks, 1975; Statue, 1975; Razor Necklace, 1975; The Way Underpants Really Are, 1975; Chart of the Solar Systems Showing Gods Home on Venus, 1975; Monster Voice, 1975; Candy Mexican Hats, 1977; The Four Horsemen, 1977; Tsetse Fly, 1977–78; On Being in Love, 1977–78; I Tell Three Cats About Jail, 1977–78; Tamale Pie, 1978; Calcium Pills, 1978. All: Video, sound; running times variable. Purchased with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2015.1.1–16

Suzanne Lacy (b. 1945, Wasco, CA) Learn Where the Meat Comes From, 1976, from the series Anatomy Lessons. Video, color, sound; 14:20 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2014.142

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965), still from Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.17 © Kevin Jerome Everson; courtesy the artist, Tribolite-Arts DAC, and Picture Palace Pictures

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965), still from Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2012.17 © Kevin Jerome Everson; courtesy the artist, Tribolite-Arts DAC, and Picture Palace Pictures

Lyrical Observations
July 5, 11 am
August 14, 7 pm
August 29, 11 am

Robert Beavers’s Sotiros (1975–96), Kevin Jerome Everson’s Act One: Betty and the Candle (2010), Anna Gaskell’s SOSW Ballet (2011), and David Hartt’s Stray Light (2011) are intimate observations that become poetic—sometimes lyrical, sometimes pensive—in their sustained duration.

Robert Beavers (b. 1949, Brookline, MA), Sotiros, 1975–96. 35mm film, color, sound; 25 min. Purchase with funds from the Film and Video Committee and preserved with funds from the National Film Preservation Foundation  2003.90

Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965, Mansfield, OH), Act One: Betty and the Candle, 2010. 16mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, silent, 11:25 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.17

Anna Gaskell (b. 1969, Des Moines, IA), SOSW Ballet, 2011. 35mm film, color, sound; 27:04 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2012.20

David Hartt (b. 1967, Montreal, Canada), Stray Light, 2011. Video, color, sound; 12:12 min. Purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee  2013.80

Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981), still from I Feel Your Pain, 2011. Video, color, sound; 180 min., with poster. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc. in honor of Ron Clark, Director, Independent Study Program  2013.14 © Liz Magic Laser 2011. Performa Commission. Featuring Annie Fox and Rafael Jordan. Photograph by Yola Monakhov

Liz Magic Laser (b. 1981), still from I Feel Your Pain, 2011. Video, color, sound; 180 min., with poster. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc. in honor of Ron Clark, Director, Independent Study Program 2013.14 © Liz Magic Laser 2011. Performa Commission. Featuring Annie Fox and Rafael Jordan. Photograph by Yola Monakhov

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Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist at The Whitney Museum of American Art

The most eye-opening take-away I got from attending the preview of (both) the new Whitney Museum of American Art in downtown Manhattan (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014, (212) 570-3600, info@whitney.org) and the inaugural exhibit, America is Hard to See, is, as much as I love art (and how much I have read on the subject over the years), it was astonishing how much I DID NOT know.

We all know Jackson Pollack, but how much do we know about his wife, Lee Krasner, an accomplished artist in her own right whose own career often was seriously compromised by her role as supportive wife to Pollock, arguably the one of the most significant postwar American painter, as well as by the male-dominated art world? We know Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Georgia O’Keefe, but we should also know more about Arthur Dove, Imogene Cunningham, Florine Stettheimer, James Daugherty, Eldzier Cortor, Raphael Montanez Ortiz, Eva Hesse, Lari Pitmman, and Nam June Park, and so many others, all among the 400 artists represented in more than 600 works of arts in “America is Hard to See“.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was borne out of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s advocacy on behalf of living American artists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists with new ideas found it nearly impossible to exhibit or sell their work in the United States. Recognizing the obstacles these artists faced, Mrs. Whitney began purchasing and showing their work, thereby becoming the leading patron of American art from 1907 until her death in 1942.

In 1914, Mrs. Whitney established The Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village, where she presented exhibitions by living American artists whose work had been disregarded by the traditional

Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891-1981)

Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891-1981)

academies. By 1929 she had assembled a collection of more than 500 works, which she offered with an endowment to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. When the offer was refused, she set up her own museum, one with a new and radically different mandate: to focus exclusively on the art and artists of this country. The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1930, and opened in 1931 on West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village.

Since its inception in 1931, the Whitney has championed American art and artists by assembling a rich permanent collection and featuring a rigorous and varied schedule of exhibition programs, which is why the upcoming exhibition, Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, (October 2, 2015–January 17, 2016) is so important. It introduces us to yet another artist we should know and whose work defined the life and times in America.

 Archibald J. Motley Jr., Blues, (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 inches (91.4 x 106.7 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Blues, (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42 inches (91.4 x 106.7 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald Motley was one of the most important figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance (although he never lived in Harlem) and is best known as both a master colorist and a radical interpreter of urban culture.First shown at the Nasher Museum at Duke University in early 2014 and organized and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell (John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University), Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is the first full-scale survey of his paintings in two decades, featuring mesmerizing portraits and vibrant cultural scenes painted between 1919 to 1961. The installation at the Whitney Museum will be overseen by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Barbecue, (detail), c. 1934. Oil on canvas, 39 x 44 inches (99.1 x 111.76 cm). Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Barbecue, (detail), c. 1934. Oil on canvas, 39 x 44 inches (99.1 x 111.76 cm). Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

 Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (Holy Rollers), (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 29.25 x 36.125 inches (74.3 x 91.8 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Tongues (Holy Rollers), (detail), 1929. Oil on canvas, 29.25 x 36.125 inches (74.3 x 91.8 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

The exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to carefully examine Motley’s dynamic depictions of modern life in his home town, Chicago, as well as in Jazz Age Paris and Mexico. Specifically, it will highlight his unique use of both expressionism and social realism and will resituate this underexposed artist within a broader, art historical context. The exhibition will be presented in the sky-lit eighth floor galleries of the new Whitney during its inaugural year.

Motley is one of the most significant yet least visible 20th-century artists, despite the broad appeal of his paintings. Many of his most important portraits and cultural scenes remain in private collections; few museums have had the opportunity to acquire his work. With a survey that spans 40 years, Archibald Motley introduces the artist’s canvases of riotous color to wider audiences and reveals his continued impact on art history.

According to Powell in a previous interview, ” There was a major retrospective of Archibald Motley that was done in the early 1990s by the Chicago Historical Society, now known as the Chicago History Museum. Why are we looking at him again? The show that was done in 1991 was a broad introduction to his art and career. It was less focused and broad and general. I had a chance to see that show and enjoyed it immensely. But as we have moved beyond that moment and into the 21st century and as we have moved into the era of post-modernism, particularly that category post-black, I really felt that it would be worth revisiting Archibald Motley to look more critically at his work, to investigate his wry sense of humor, his use of irony in his paintings, his interrogations of issues around race and identity.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Mending Socks, 1924. Oil on canvas, 43.875 x 40 inches (111.4 x 101.6 cm). Collection of the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2801. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Mending Socks, 1924. Oil on canvas, 43.875 x 40 inches (111.4 x 101.6 cm). Collection of the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2801. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald John Motley, Junior (September 2, 1891, New Orleans, Louisiana – January 16, 1981, Chicago, Illinois) was an American painter. He studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1910s and is most famous for his colorful chronicling of the African-American experience during the 1920s and 1930s, and considered one of the major contributors to the Harlem Renaissance.

Archibald J. Motley, Jr., Black Belt, (detail), 1934. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40.5 inches (83.8 x 102.9 cm). Collection of the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley, Jr., Black Belt, (detail), 1934. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40.5 inches (83.8 x 102.9 cm). Collection of the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Unlike many other Harlem Renaissance artists, Archibald Motley, Jr. never lived in Harlem—-he was born in New Orleans and spent the majority of his life in Chicago. His was the only black family in a fairly affluent, white, European neighborhood. His social class enabled him to have the benefit of classical training at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was awarded the Harmon Foundation Award in 1928, and then became the first African-American to have a one-man exhibit in New York City. He sold twenty-two out of the twenty-six exhibited paintings–an impressive feat for an emerging black artist.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Self-Portrait (Myself at Work), 1933. Oil on canvas, 57.125 x 45.25 inches (145.1 x 114.9 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Self-Portrait (Myself at Work), 1933. Oil on canvas, 57.125 x 45.25 inches (145.1 x 114.9 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

In 1927 he had applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship and was denied, but he reapplied and won the fellowship in 1929. He studied in France for a year, and chose not to extend his fellowship another six months. While many contemporary artists looked back to Africa for inspiration, Motley was inspired by the great Renaissance masters available at the Louvre. He found in the artwork there a formal sophistication and maturity that could give depth to his own work, particularly in the Dutch painters and the genre images of Delacroix, Hals, and Rembrandt. Motley’s portraits take the conventions of the Western tradition and update them–allowing for black bodies, specifically black female bodies, a space in a history that had traditionally excluded them.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Brown Girl After the Bath, 1931. Oil on canvas, 48.25 x 36 inches (122.6 x 91.4 cm). Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2007.015. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Brown Girl After the Bath, 1931. Oil on canvas, 48.25 x 36 inches (122.6 x 91.4 cm). Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2007.015. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., The Octoroon Girl, 1925. Oil on canvas, 38 x 30.25 inches (96.5 x 76.8 cm). Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, New York. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Archibald J. Motley Jr., The Octoroon Girl, 1925. Oil on canvas, 38 x 30.25 inches (96.5 x 76.8 cm). Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, New York. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

Motley was incredibly interested in skin tone, and did numerous portraits documenting women of varying blood quantities (“octoroon,” “quadroon,” “mulatto”). These portraits celebrate skin tone as something diverse, inclusive, and pluralistic. The also demonstrate an understanding that these categorizations become synonymous with public identity and influence one’s opportunities in life. It is often difficult if not impossible to tell what kind of racial mixture the subject has without referring to the title. These physical markers of blackness, then, are unstable and unreliable, and Motley exposed that difference.

As Powell later reiterated, “Motley [was] very attuned to the racial politics of his time. He knows that African Americans during this time struggled around issues of class and race and identity and that he can get a rise out of audiences and viewers when he explores a range of subjects that might be viewed by some people as stereotypic. He is consciously doing this. He is willfully doing this to get people to engage with the work, but also ultimately to move beyond a simplistic representation or a simplistic sense of what black people should or shouldn’t look like. He wants to mix things up to make you come to terms with the richness of the subject as it is represented from one painting to another.” Continue reading

Major Exhibition To Explore Modern and Contemporary Latino Art Opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Oct. 25

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art”, now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-20th century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s pioneering collection of Latino art and explores how Latino artists shaped the artistic movements of their day and recalibrated key themes in American art and culture.

Melesio ‘’Mel’’ Casas, "Humanscape 62", 1970, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 1970, the Casas Family

Melesio ‘’Mel’’ Casas, “Humanscape 62”, 1970, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 1970, the Casas Family

The exhibition presents works in all media by 72 leading modern and contemporary artists. Of the 92 artworks featured in the exhibition, 63 have been acquired by the museum since 2011, representing its deep and continuing commitment to collecting Latino art. “Our America” will be on view from Oct. 25 through March 2, 2014. Following its presentation in Washington, D.C., the exhibition will travel to six cities across the United States. The exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Olga Albizu, "Radiante", 1967, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of JPMorgan Chase

Olga Albizu, “Radiante”, 1967, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of JPMorgan Chase

“The exhibition ‘Our America’ is the culmination of a major collecting initiative, still underway at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to build a significant collection of Latino art in the nation’s capital,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “It is particularly exciting to debut so many artworks newly acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.”

The exhibition includes works by artists who participated in all the various artistic styles and movements, including abstract expressionism; activist, conceptual and performance art; and classic American genres such as landscape, portraiture and scenes of everyday life. Latino artists across the United States were galvanized by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s and they created new images of their communities and examined bicultural experiences. Many critically probed American history and popular culture, revealing the possibilities and tensions of expansionism, migration and settlement. Other Latino artists in the exhibition devoted themselves to experimentation, pushing the limits of their chosen medium. “Our America” presents a picture of an evolving national culture that challenges expectations of what is meant by “American” and “Latino.”

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, "Constellation", 2004, instant color prints, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 2004, María Magdale

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, “Constellation”, 2004, instant color prints, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 2004, María Magdale

The relationship between Latino art and the larger world of American art in the post-War period is not simple or clear cut,” said Ramos. “Some artists, influenced by the activism of Latino civil rights movements, turned away from pure formalist discourse to tackle the pressing issues of the day. Others artists wholeheartedly embraced abstraction. An even larger group inhabited multiple worlds, infusing avant-garde modes with politically and culturally engaged themes.” Continue reading