The Whitney Museum of American Art will unveil the latest work in a series of public art installations by key American artists across from the Museum’s new building and the southern entrance to the High Line, on the facade of 95 Horatio Street (the work is located on the southwest corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets). Before Now After (Mama, Mummy and Mamma) (2015) by Njideka Akunyili Crosby is the third work to be featured as part of the series, which was initiated by the Whitney in partnership with TF Cornerstone and High Line Art. The first installation, in 2014, presented a work by Alex Katz and the second displayed a Michele Abeles work. The installation is organized by Whitney associate curator Jane Panetta.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983; Enugu, Nigeria) is a Los Angeles–based artist who makes large-scale, representational work that combines collage, drawing, painting, and printmaking. Her work routinely fuses both Nigerian and American influences and source material, reflecting on contemporary African life (often her family) along with her transcultural experience as an expatriate living in the United States, and the inherent difficulty of navigating these two realms. The works simultaneously become intimate while more broadly exploring the cultural complications of the dual worlds that she inhabits.
Akunyili Crosby’s new work for the billboard continues her ongoing exploration of her relationship to her family, specifically her sister, mother, and grandmother. The image is based on her painting, Mama, Mummy and Mamma (2014), now expanded for this site. Like much of her work, the composition fuses both a portrait (in this case of her sister), photographs of both her mother and grandmother, and an elaborate array of objects arranged carefully on a table, suggesting a still life composition. Additionally, the work’s placement at the foot of the High Line allows the viewer to peer into Akunyili Crosby’s carefully composed and invented world, reflective of her complex personal history. This is the artist’s first solo display presented by an institution in New York.
In late October of this year, The Studio Museum in Harlem announced that it was bestowing its Wein Prize – a $50,000 award won in the past by esteemed artists like Lorna Simpson, Glenn Ligon and Trenton Doyle Hancock – to Akunyili Crosby. The prize – established by George Wein, a founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, in honor of his wife, Joyce Alexander Wein, a trustee of the museum who died in 2005 – has been given every year since 2006 to established or emerging African-American artists.
She received her BA from Swarthmore College, a post baccalaureate certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and an MFA from Yale University. Akunyili Crosby was the 2014 recipient of the Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize and her artwork has been exhibited at venues including the Hammer Museum, Art + Practice, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the New Museum, the Bronx Museum, the Museum of African Diaspora in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Victoria Miro, London.
Presented by Friends of the High Line, High Line Art commissions and produces public art projects on and around the High Line. Founded in 2009, High Line Art presents a wide array of artwork including site-specific commissions, exhibitions, performances, video programs, and a series of billboard interventions. Curated by Cecilia Alemani, the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Curator & Director of High Line Art, and produced by Friends of the High Line, High Line Art invites artists to think of creative ways to engage with the uniqueness of the architecture, history, and design of the High Line and to foster a productive dialogue with the surrounding neighborhood and urban landscape.
TF Cornerstone was an early pioneer in the residential development of Greenwich Village’s Meat Market and converted the Manhattan Refrigerating Company building, now 95 Horatio Street, to apartments in 1986. The High Line originally ran through the building at the point where the Whitney installations will hang. TF Cornerstone has been a major presence in the Village for more than forty years and today is one of the largest apartment owners and managers in New York City. In addition, the company pioneered the transformation of Long Island City’s waterfront into an amenity-rich thoroughfare, played a major role in residential development on the West Side of Manhattan, and has developed other notable properties in the Financial District and Upper East Side, among others. The company is owned and directed by K. Thomas and Frederick Elghanayan.
The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by the artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875−1942), houses the foremost collection of American art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Mrs. Whitney, an early and ardent supporter of modern American art, nurtured groundbreaking artists at a time when audiences were still largely preoccupied with the Old Masters. From her vision arose the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has been championing the most innovative art of the United States for more than eighty years.