Paul Mpagi Sepuya
As an intern in the Curatorial department at The Studio Museum in Harlem, I have the opportunity to explore how the Museum functions behind the scenes. At work, it is exciting to observe how our curators harness the power that exhibitions and their surrounding discourse possess in order to activate art as a social and political tool. Selecting artists and framing their work in relation to broader thematic concerns is one of a curator’s primary responsibilities, and I am especially interested in the long-term relationships between our curators and the artists. The Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum, founded in 1968, provides an excellent example of the close working relationships between curators and creators. One of my projects at the Museum is to manage a database of information concerning AIR alumni.
Finding Themes and Experimenting with Materials
As the sixteen high school students continue on their eight-month, photography-based journey at the Museum through the Expanding the Walls program, they take time to look through and thoroughly discuss work by artists such as Lorna Simpson, Malick Sidibe, Gordon Parks and others to help shed light on the multitude of topics and themes photography can cover. The hope is that in studying these artists, the students gain an introduction to themes that they might later choose to focus their projects on. As emerging artists with newfound creative voices, the students struggle with capturing their experiences, perspectives and comments on their respective themes. Many found themselves stuck when trying to analyze and build upon the themes they have chosen, feeling that their approaches had already been employed in a multitude of projects by other artists.
Samuel Levi Jones & More
For his first solo museum exhibition, Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound, Samuel Levi Jones transforms the Studio Museum's Project Space with a site-specific installation made of dismantled law books. When deconstructed into their basic components—covers and spines—the reference books’ implicit authority symbolically disintegrates. Stitched together in wall-to-wall grids, the fragmented books hang like paintings, emphasizing form and materiality. Once the books are stripped of their identity, their function and value are obscured, even negated. By manipulating law books, Jones engages with recent criticism of the American justice system.
with Exhibition at Word Up Community Bookshop
Arts & Minds is celebrating five years at The Studio Museum in Harlem with an exhibition at Word Up Community Bookshop, a non-profit, volunteer-run bookstore and art space in Washington Heights. On Sunday, March 8th, participants, friends and family members gathered for the opening reception.
Every two weeks, people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and their caregivers gather at the Studio Museum to discuss the art on view and to respond creatively in the studio. This ongoing experience is the catalyst for the art now on view at Word Up. Co-curated by Executive Director, Carolyn Halpin-Healy and Arts & Minds intern Jessica Kemper, the works in the exhibition range from collage and chalk drawings, to watercolor and acrylic painting.
Just the beginning
Not very often will a beginner photographer get an intensive class at a prestigious art school, but that is exactly what happened for the 2015 class of Expanding the Walls. Many of the participating students came to the program without any previous knowledge of photography. Slightly overwhelmed, some of the students worried about how they would capture images with a high tech camera. While a few students had some experience in photography, they still lacked an in-depth understanding of the camera’s workings. So to ease the students into using their cameras and the world of photography, Isaac Diggs, photography professor at Schools of Visual Arts, lent a helping hand. Throughout the month of February, ETW class sessions took place at the SVA campus, where Diggs led an intensive class covering the technicalities of the camera as well as the bases of black and white darkroom photography.
As we prepare to open Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing, Concealed: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Salon Style, In Profile: Portraits from the Permanent Collection and Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound on March 26, we had to first say goodbye to our fall/winter exhibitions. Check out the behind-the-scenes action as we deinstall work from our galleries!
Eric Mack, 2014–15 AIR
In the second of a series of three blog posts, Curatorial Intern Mallory Cohen writes about her studio visits with each of the current artists in residence. Read Mallory's first post here.
Eric Mack’s works shuttle between humor and a heady abstract expressionism, and his art offers neither legibility nor instant gratification. The payoff that sustained engagement with his work yields, however, is more than enough reward.
It is always interesting to see the unplanned through lines that appear between exhibitions at different institutions. Just as we at the Studio Museum prepare to close Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum has opened another exhibition centered around the role of the Johnson Publishing Company in defining concepts of beauty, style and empowerment for African Americans.
Lauren Halsey, 2014–15 AIR
In the first of a series of three blog posts, Curatorial Intern Mallory Cohen writes about her studio visits with each of the current artists in residence.
As I stepped into Lauren Halsey’s studio on the third floor of the Studio Museum, I was immediately struck by the artist’s impressive—and large—ambitions. An eight-by-twelve-foot square of sheetrock takes up the vast majority of Halsey’s studio floor, leaving only a small walkway around its perimeter. The sheetrock is split into two-by-two-foot squares, which feature ancient Egyptian iconography mixed with carvings of Harlem and Los Angeles. Images of sarcophagi and the pyramids stand stand-by-side with phone numbers, corporate signage and portraits of LA citizens—symbols of the urban present elevated alongside mythological expressions of the past.