Past

Throughout the twentieth century, Harlem has been regarded as a beacon of African-American history and culture. Sites such as the Apollo Theater, Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Malcolm X Corner at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue serve as popular postcard images that represent significant places and moments in this community. Today, Harlem continues to evolve as a center of history and culture. Everyday, changes are witnessed by its residents and experienced by tourists and visitors from all over the world.

Harlem Postcards, an ongoing project, invites contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds to reflect on Harlem as a site of cultural activity, political vitality, visual stimuli, artistic contemplation and creative production. Representing intimate and dynamic perspectives of Harlem, the images reflect each artist’s oeuvre with an idiosyncratic snapshot taken of, or representing, this historic locale. Each photograph has been reproduced as a limited-edition postcard available free to visitors. This season we are pleased to feature postcard images created by Noel Anderson, Cheryl Donegan, Mariamma Kambon and Devin Troy Strother.

Kabakov Son Image

Noel Anderson

Kabakov Son, 2011

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In 1984, Russian artist Ilya Kabakov slang-shot his cosmonaut hero beyond Earth’s authorized reality in his famous piece The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment. The same year, actor Joe Morton was chased through the streets of Harlem as an extraterrestrial nonbeing in director John Sayles’s urban sci-fi classic, The Brother from Another Planet. Some twenty-seven years later, Harlem has again become the landing strip for a “brother from another planet.” I imagine Kabakov as the hero cosmonaut, but with an illegitimate child who gets propelled back to Earth. Thrust from the fence-tangled stroller, the child’s body slices space, bouncing from cool brick to grizzled pavement. His entrance smacks with the reality of Harlem. Like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Kabakov’s child roams Harlem, searching for artistic ways to discuss the complexities of life.

Born 1981, Louisville, KY
Lives and works in Cincinnati, OH

Disassociated Image

Cheryl Donegan

Disassociated, 2011

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My paintings, with their loud colors, divergent angles and competing layers, seem to indulge in the language of expressionism. But upon inspection, the colors are thin, artificial; the compositions are deliberately unresolved; the layers do not build and cohere but drift, ignore each other or clash. Despite this lack of conviction, a certain buoyant or even jubilant attitude is communicated. For my Harlem Postcard, I focused on aspects of the urban landscape that beckoned me with visual kismet. Zooming in on ragged or discolored signage, I flagged the ripped edge, seeking reflections in panes of glass, awning stripes and leftover duct tape. I saw in abstraction not essence, but artifice.

It was fun.

This image was a last-minute decision—the façade of a supermarket, its window display tattered by the abuse of the workaday, the pixels of the printed sign exposed like enlarged pores, offering up an image of fractured abundance.

Born 1962, New Haven, CT
Lives and works in New York, NY

Globetrotting image

Devin Troy Strother

Globetrotting, 2011

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I wanted to make a work that addresses what I already know about Harlem. For me, the Harlem Globetrotters represent a certain kind of lineage and heritage associated with black people. Harlem has been the stage for many black performers, whether at the Apollo, the Dance Theatre of Harlem or the Studio Museum, and has played host to a slew of entertainers over the years. Every time I make a painting, I feel like I’m putting on a show within the pictorial space. I feel a direct connection between the Globetrotters and what art does: entertain and engage the viewer through a type of performance.

Born 1986, West Covina, CA
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

Ebony hands on each ivory key

Mariamma Kambon

Ebony hands on each ivory key, 2011

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A poem by Langston Hughes brought me to Sugar Hill, curious about a neighborhood with a nickname so fanciful that I never imagined it could exist. I devoured Sugar Hill in hungry snapshots for months on end. I worked a convoluted subway route to enter and leave by both day and night, so tantalized was I by the potential for sticky-sweet residue from the famed glory days of the Harlem Renaissance. Almost a year after I first strolled the streets of Sugar Hill, I found a resident who lives Harlem’s rich creative legacy. The elegant and hospitable Marjorie Eliot treats the public to jazz concerts at her home each weekend. Here she is paying tribute to a former bandmate at Jackie Robinson Park.

Born 1977, Trinidad and Tobago
Lives and works in New York, NY