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.
Ayana V. Jackson
Per the gracious introduction of Thomas Lax, I had the opportunity to meet and visit with Ayana V. Jackson some time ago. We first met in Berlin, where Ayana graciously guided me around the city. Jackson, a US American and graduate of Spelman College, splits her time between Johannesburg, New York and Paris, where we followed up a few weeks later to discuss her work and artistic practice. Her photography and filmmaking, while simultaneously alluring and shocking, serve a higher conceptual function: a bitingly intelligent elucidation of the power of the image, the scars of history and the internalized architectures of difference built thereof. Confronting what she terms the “original sin of images,” Jackson manipulates her own body as subject, creating a running critique of socialized perceptions of race, gender and class and their intersections.
Artist Alexis Peskine (b. 1979) focuses on questions of national and racial identity, the black body experience, and universal emotions. Peskine moved to the United States to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he received a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Digital Art in 2004. He then enrolled in Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) on a Fulbright Scholarship (the first foreign student to be awarded this honor), where he completed his MFA. His influences are wide-ranging, including Kara Walker, Takashi Murakami, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy, as is his approach to art-making and his chosen materials.
Allison Janae Hamilton presents her foppish subjects in lush landscapes
When I look at the new work of Harlem-based photographer Allison Hamilton, a series entitled "Kingdom of the Marvelous," counterintuitively I think about the folkloric tale of John Henry, the legendary steel driver who tried to prove his worth by successfully outpacing an industrial machine. Perhaps not the work itself makes me think of the story, but something she said to me during a recent studio visit: “I wanted to place black men in a setting other than the usual urban landscape where they always seem to be at odds, even struggling against it.” Like the themes in the story, Hamilton is working with the tension between masculinity and its relationship to the land the black body versus its environs.
Curatorial Fellow Monique Long on Fashion in Harlem and Art
In the glossary that accompanied Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Story in Harlem Slang,” (1942) there are five different terms listed for someone fashionable. Invariably, iconic photographs of Harlemites include those dressed in blindingly fashionable clothes. There’s a rich history and tradition in Harlem that defines the neighborhood not only as the cornerstone of African-American culture but style as well. Visitors and residents alike assimilate to the expectation that you must express yourself fashionably here, demonstrated beautifully by the attendees at our summer opening in July and the monumental drawings by Rob Pruitt of fashionable women that hang in the main gallery.
A Day with Lorna Simpson
On March 30th, artist Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) welcomed the Expanding the Walls (ETW) artists to her Fort Greene, Brooklyn studio for a day of experimentation. As we’re halfway through the 2013 program, the young artists have encountered many points of inspiration generated from countless sources. This particular interaction provided fascinating results that reflected the diverse perspectives of this ETW group.
“…it’s more about [my] experience and the process of making things.”—Lorna Simpson
Inside Shinique Smith's Studio
Artist Shinique Smith is in the process of relocating studios. The space reminded me of something along the lines of large thrift store filled with vibrantly colored textiles, clothes, and miscellaneous curiosities. Perhaps the moving process added to the delightful cacophony of the place, contributing to a sense of movement that is equally felt in her paintings filled with dizzying swirls, psychedelic colors and often accessorized with a range of found objects from Hostess cupcake boxes to Chik-fil-A bags to plastic corn stalks.
“When I’m making a painting I don’t want to feel like I’m writing a thesis,” said William Villalongo on a warm July afternoon in his Brooklyn studio. As curatorial interns, we were thrilled to begin our week not-so-silently shadowing Assistant Curator Naima Keith on a studio visit. Villalongo, a Cooper Union trained artist and Yale lecturer in the painting and print department, surprised us with the variety of work in his studio. Though diverse, his pieces were united by an imaginative rather than a strict, formulaic process.
On a chilly winter afternoon, Assistant Curator, Naima J. Keith and I dropped in on world-renowned and revered abstract artist Jack Whitten. Intent on leaving the bustle and chaos behind in Manhattan, Jack converted an old firehouse on a quiet street in Woodside, Queens into his studio 9 years ago.
As we stepped into his spacious main room that has been arranged as part gallery/workspace on one side and living/domestic space on the other, our eyes were immediately drawn to a wall covered with photographs, posters, bones, and wood pieces. He began telling us about his love for deep sea fishing and Crete, which is where many of the skeletons arranged throughout the workspace came from. There was an image of Nkisi Power Figures from Kongo, which were the root of inspiration for all of the impeccable wooden sculptures that Whitten has been creating since the 1960s.
Jack Haynes draws pictures. After graduating from high school in 1999, he spent two years at Illinois State University studying illustration before moving to Chicago to pursue his passion, hoping that a career would soon follow. As a freelance designer, he has designed stationery, logos, invitations, books, and other printed matter for several companies. He loves comics and hopes to author and illustrate his own one day. On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jack Haynes, pick his brain and flip through his sketchbook.
Your work spans a plethora of different media, what kind of artist would you classify yourself as?
It's difficult to truly feel like an artist of any medium at 30 with so much to still learn and do. I have put the most study into human figure illustration and painting.
How do you describe your style?