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Drawing the Block

Guest Blog by Kira Lynn Harris

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  • Kira Lynn Harris installing The Block | Bellona (2011). Photo: Seger Bonnebakker

  • View of The Block | Bellona (2011), mid-installation. Photo: Seger Bonnebakker

  • Kira Lynn Harris and an assistant installing The Block | Bellona (2011). Photo Seger Bonnebakker

  • View of The Block | Bellona (2011), mid-installation. Photo: Kira Lynn Harris

  • Kira Lynn Harris installing The Block | Bellona (2011). Photo: Seger Bonnebakker

These photos are from the second day of installation. My assistants (Andrea Solstad, Stuart Lorimer and recent Studio Museum artist in residence Valerie Piraino) met in person for the first time the day before.  We began our draw-a-thon in earnest on Friday afternoon and went through the weekend. 
  

Lyle Ashton Harris in conversation

with Nancy Barton, Jim Hodges and Shirin Neshat

Enjoy a clip from last week's The Artist's Voice featuring Lyle Ashton Harris in conversation with artists Nancy Barton, Jim Hodges, Shirin Neshat and Studio Museum Exhibition Coordinator and Program Associate Thomas J. Lax! 

 

Remembering Michael Richards

On September 11th, 2001, artist Michael Richards—at the time a resident in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council World Views program—was working in the LMCC studios located in Tower One of the World Trade Center, on the 92nd floor. One among thousands who we remember this year on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Richards’s untimely death hit especially close to home for the New York art world and the Studio Museum in particular.

Jacob Lawrence: Harlem Icon and National Treasure

  • Jacob Lawrence
    The Architect, 1959
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Hathinas  82.1

Today, September 7th, marks the birthday of painter Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), whose vital presence in America's artistic heritage grew from his roots in the Harlem community. In celebration of his legacy, we've reproduced Assistant Curator Lauren Haynes's essay on The Architect (1959), originally published in Re:Collection: Selected Works from The Studio Museum in Harlem.

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Happy Birthday, Romare Bearden!

The Centennial Begins

  • Frank Stewart
    Romare Bearden, 1979
    © Frank Stewart
    Courtesy the artist

September 2, 2011, is the 100th Anniversary of Romare Bearden’s birth. Wishing the late icon a “Happy Birthday” is not nearly enough to acknowledge the expansive influence Bearden had during his lifetime and continues to exert in the world. Bearden was instrumental in the founding of The Studio Museum in Harlem; given that fact, coupled with the profound role he played in the lives and work of so many of our artists, friends and supporters, it is fair to say that the Museum would not be what it is today without this incredible man.

In the Studio with Angel Otero

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  • Angel Otero

    Photo: Dominic Hackley

  • Angel Otero
    At 11:11pm I'm Still Asking for the Same Thing, 2011
    Photo: Dominic Hackley

  • Photo: Dominic Hackley

  • Photo: Dominic Hackley

  • Photo: Dominic Hackley

  • Angel Otero

    Up All Night, 2011

    Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

Working in his sunlit Ridgewood studio, Angel Otero (b.1981) produces three or four new oil paintings on glass each day. After drying, he scrapes the paintings off the glass (creating “oil skins”) and applies them to large, resin-coated canvases. The process results in the rippled, semi-abstract paintings that characterize the artist’s signature style. Otero stumbled upon this unusual technique while at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he saved scraps of dried oil paint and collaged them on to canvas in an effort to save money. “I didn’t have the courage to throw [the scraps] away because oil paint is very expensive and I was dead broke,” he remarks.

Being in Studio

  • Artist in residence Paul Mpagi Sepuya in his studio

Halfway through my internship at the Studio Museum in Harlem, I learned that the artists in residence studios were directly above the office I’d been working in, just a short flight of stairs’ distance from where I'd been completing my intern duties. Upon realizing this fact, I remember feeling a bit strange about such a close proximity. David Hammons has been there, as has Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Kehinde Wiley; and I could continue. There is such a history to this place that for me the “studio” had nearly approached myth. It took a few steps up the stairs for me to accept that these studios actually exist.

Suspensions: Jason Stopa's abstracted landscapes

  • Jason Stopa

    Suspended, 2010

    Courtesy the artist

I grew up in Southern California, and though I had friends who’d take seasonal vacations to mountains—to Big Bear, to Lake Tahoe—my family was never really the cabin dwelling type. I’ve never snowboarded; I have not ever skied. In this absence, “the slopes” have existed solely in my imagination, simultaneously magical and frightening to me, and probably the both because of their mystery; there’s a certain kind of appeal to uncertainty. 

I am not entirely sure what I’m looking at in Suspended (2010)—it’s not even a ski lift, perhaps it’s the tracing of a monorail, but I know that seeing the painting brings me to this place of haze. The scene is all shrouded, muted and blurred, and I'm asking where am I, exactly, in this landscape?

Deep Skin

  • Kerry James Marshall

    Untitled, 2009

    Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Save for her eyes and their slight edges, the seated artist in Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled painting (2009) is consummately black. Her skin’s shade blends into the mass of dark hair resting atop her head as though she were dipped in night’s pigmentation, clothed, and placed on this chair. She is of a full-bodied, concentrated coloring; each inch of her skin coated in darkness.

In an interview with Kerry James Marshall for the Yale Daily News, writer Ah Joo Shin notes this propensity for black skin coloring, asking Marshall the inevitably loaded question of “what ‘black’ means to [him].” Marshall articulates this preference for black as a matter of message: “I use it because it’s the most powerful rhetorical device because it operates at the extreme,” he replies. “And since I’m trying to make images that portray the maximum amount of power that [they] can, that’s why the black is most effective…” [YDN]

Silhouettes, Relieved

On Kara Walker's new drawings

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  • Kara Walker
    Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque Southern Slavery or “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life)” See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, an Emancipated Negress and leader in her Cause, 1997
    Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
     

  • Kara Walker
    Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque Southern Slavery or “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life)” See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, an Emancipated Negress and leader in her Cause, 1997
    Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

After viewing Kara Walker’s new drawings more than a decade after her widely acclaimed silhouette tableaux first received attention in the late ’90s, I can’t help but to think of all of the pressure. There is the pressure of progression—a question of how Walker can continue to advance upon work that captivated the contemporary art world years ago, work that resulted in a MacArthur “genius grant” no less. I wonder how a person could create under the demands of a massive renown such as hers, knowing the high expectations that trail excellence. But when I think of the pressure of Kara Walker, I am not only thinking of the burden of prior brilliance, but also of a near physical heaviness.