nick cave - cranbrook art museum

THIS SUMMER, MAJOR CITIES are presenting major exhibitions featuring the work of important African American artists. In greater Detroit, Nick Cave (shown above) is staging pop-up performances showcasing his mesmerizing Soundsuits in conjunction with a museum exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum, his first in Michigan. In New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem is mounting the first solo museum exhibition of veteran painter Stanley Whitney. Baltimore photographer Devin Allen, a novice whose image of police protests landed on the cover of Time magazine, is getting his first-ever exhibition at the city’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

There are offerings in Chicago and London, too. The greatest draw is in Los Angeles where the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is presenting the first major museum retrospective of the late assemblage artist Noah Purifoy, and at the Hammer Museum, after exhibiting around the world, Los Angeles-based abstract artist Mark Bradford is finally getting a solo museum show in his hometown.

The summer months are bringing many other firsts, including Betye Saar‘s exhibition “Still Tickin'” in The Netherlands, her first in Europe. Other shows explore Haitian, Congolese and South African culture. A selection of noteworthy museum and gallery exhibitions follows (many on view through fall):

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STANLEY WHITNEY, “In Our Songs” (1996). | via Karma Gallery

Through July 26
1. STANLEY WHITNEY @ Karma Gallery | New York, N.Y.
This captivating presentation of 1990s works by New York painter Stanley Whitney showcases his expressive abstracts—densely colored, grid-based works. Overlapping with his first solo museum exhibition in New York, which opens at the Studio Museum in Harlem on July 16 (see below), the show includes five large canvases and a wall of dozens of small-scale studies displayed gallery style. Along with the exhibition, Karma has produced a special 400-page cloth-bound book (including limited-edition copies with original drawings on the cover) documenting Whitney’s practice over the past nearly 40 years.

Frank Bowling, Marcia H Travels, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 305 x 570 cm [courtesy of Frank Bowling and Hales Gallery,© Frank Bowling photograph by Charles Robinson]
In 2014, the Dallas Museum of Art acquired Frank Bowling’s “Marcia H Travels,” 1970 (acrylic on canvas). | Courtesy of Frank Bowling and Hales Gallery, © Frank Bowling, Photo by Charles Robinson

Through Aug. 2, 2015
2. “FRANK BOWLING: Map Paintings” @ Dallas Museum of Art | Dallas
Born in Guyana, British painter Frank Bowling‘s “Map Series,” an installation of five works (one of which was acquired by the Dallas museum) is on view for the first time since 1971, when it was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. According to the museum, Bowling who “is widely celebrated for his contributions to the field of abstraction and his advocacy of black artists internationally, created a number of paintings in the 1970s characterized by his use of world maps as organizational tools to explore color as its own subject—a recurring theme in his work.”

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JACK WHITTEN, “NY Battleground,” 1967 (oil on canvas). Courtesy the artist, Alexander Gray Associates, New York; Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, © 2015 Jack Whitten/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York via Wexner Center for the Arts

Through Aug. 2, 2015
3. JACK WHITTEN: Five Decades of Painting @ Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University | Columbus, Ohio
Jack Whitten’s approach to abstraction is distinct, defined by his longstanding commitment to evolving his practice—exploring the possibilities of paint and referencing political, social and cultural currents. Originating at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the exhibition is Whitten’s first career-spanning retrospective and features nearly 50 paintings.

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Installation view of “James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas: The Devil and His Blues.” | Photo by Jeffrey Sturges, Courtesy 80WSE Gallery

Through Aug. 7, 2015
4. “JAMES ‘SON FORD’ THOMAS: The Devil and His Blues” @ 80WSE Gallery, NYU | New York, N.Y.
Born in Mississippi, as a child, James “Son Ford” Thomas made skulls, a preoccupation he returned to as an adult after working for a decade as a grave digger. Seeking to accurately represent the dead, he often incorporated human teeth or dentures, wigs and sunglasses in his clay sculptures. A Delta blues musician and a self-taught artist, Thomas was included last year in the exhibition “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South,” which originated at the Studio Museum in Harlem. This solo show, featuring more than 100 of his unfired clay objects and two documentary films, is the first major presentation of his work since his death in 1993.

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Installation view of “Whitfield Lovell: Deep River” at Telfair Museums, Savannah, Ga. | via Telfair Museums

Through Sept. 13, 2015
5. “WHITFIELD LOVELL: Deep River @ Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens | Jacksonville, Fla.
Whitfield Lovell‘s Conte crayon on wood board portraits bring the past to bear through issues of identity, freedom, history and memory. “Inspired specifically by the legacy of African Americans who fled from slavery, crossing the Tennessee River to freedom during the Civil War,” works in the exhibition span sculpture, works on paper and multimedia, including “Deep River,” a site-specific installation.


LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Any Number of Preoccupations,” 2010 (oil on canvas). | Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection, Courtesy of Corvi-Mora London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Through Sept. 13, 2015
6. “LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE: Verses After Dusk” @ Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens | London
Tied to no time or place, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye‘s subjects leap from her mind, composite figures that she renders with confident strokes and intense color palettes. Despite their timelessness, the British artist’s masterful portraits are making an important contribution to the art historical cannon, broadening the dialogue around black identify and representation. The exhibition presents a comprehensive survey of recent works along with a catalog published to coincide with the show.

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CARL JUSTE, “Ready to Vote,” Feb. 7, 2006 (Giclee print). | © Carl Juste via NSU Art Museum

Through Sept. 13, 2015
7. “From Within and Without: The History of Haitian Photography” @ NSU Art Museum | Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Described as the first comprehensive museum survey of photography in Haiti, this sweeping presentation includes more than 350 images from the late 19th century to the present, as captured by both native and international artists. Featuring documentary, commercial, studio archive and official state photography, along with personal family photographs, the exhibition offers a compelling perspective on Haitian life and how natural disasters and political crises have affected its history and social fabric.

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EL ANATSUI, “Stressed World,” 2011 (found aluminum and copper wire). | © El Anatsui via Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Through Sept. 26, 2015
8. “EL ANATSUI: Five Decades” @ Jack Shainman Gallery, The School | Kinderhook, N.Y.
A revolutionary figure in contemporary African art, El Anatsui transforms discarded aluminum bottle caps into meticulously crafted, sculptural wall hangings. Awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (2015), the Venice Biennale’s highest honor, Ghanaian-born Anatsui splits his time between Nigeria and Ghana. Spanning 50 years, the comprehensive survey includes early compositions in painting, wood, and clay, in addition to his more recent, celebrated metal tapestries.


Mark Bradford installs a mural, “Finding Barry,” in the lobby of the Hammer Museum.

Through Sept. 27, 2015
9. MARK BRADFORD, “Scorched Earth” @ Hammer Museum | Los Angeles
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mark Bradford earned a BFA and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif. He lives and works in the Los Angeles and recently co-founded Art + Practice, an art and education foundation in the city’s Leimert Park neighborhood near his studio. Exploring social and political themes, Bradford’s abstract collage paintings have been exhibited around the world, but the Los Angeles native has never had a solo museum show in his hometown. This is his first and features new paintings, a multimedia installation and a major mural in the museum’s lobby.

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TITUS KAPHAR, Detail of “The Vesper Project,” 2013. | Image Courtesy of the Artist and Friedman Benda, New York via Contemporary Arts Center

Through Oct. 11, 2015
10. “TITUS KAPHAR: The Vesper Project” @ Contemporary Arts Center | Cincinnati
An exploration of race, family and history, Titus Kaphar‘s amazing multi-part installation literally has paintings, furniture and objects jutting from and lodged into the walls of a dilapidated period home. The metaphoric work “is the culmination of a five-year engagement with the lost storylines of the Vespers, a 19th century family who ‘passed’ as a white family in New England even as their mixed heritage made them ‘Negro’ in the eyes of the law.” First presented at Friedman Benda Gallery in New York in 2013, the project is scheduled to tour additional venues through 2016.


Nick Cave’s ambitious new exhibition includes periodic performances around Detroit.

Through October 11, 2015
11. “NICK CAVE: Here Hear” @ Cranbrook Art Museum | Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
For his first solo show in Michigan, Nick Cave is presenting an ambitious project at the Cranbrook Art Museum that includes performance, exhibition and documentation. An alumni of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, which is outside of Detroit, Cave has been staging pop-up performances around the city since April. At the museum, 30 of his colorful, dynamic and sculptural Soundsuits are on view, along with seven new mixed-media commissions, video work, a site-specific wall tapestry, and a special “Map in Action” gallery will capture the Chicago-based artist’s public performances in Detroit—displaying the Soundsuits worn and featuring video documentation of the activities.

Untitled 2006 Glenn Ligon born 1960 Purchased with funds provided by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12928
GLENN LIGON, “Untitled,” 2006 (neon lights and paint). | Purchased with funds provided by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2008 via Tate Gallery

Through October 19, 2015
12. “GLENN LIGON: Encounters and Collisions” @ Tate Liverpool | London
Glenn Ligon has assembled his ideal museum, bringing together 45 artists whose work “often deals with the shifting experience of American identity, examining loaded questions around language, power, race, gender and sexuality.” As described by Nottingham Contemporary, where the exhibition originated, the interpretation applies to Ligon’s own work too, which is presented in conversation with contributions by artists with whom he feels an intellectual and creative kinship, including Jackson Pollock, Phillip Guston, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, William Eggleston, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons, Adrian Piper, Byron Kim, Chris Ofili, Cady Noland, William Pope.L and Lorna Simpson, among many others.

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BETYE SAAR, “Still Ticking,” 2005 (mixed media assemblage). | Courtesy of the artist and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY; Photograph by Brian Forrest

Through Nov. 15, 2015
13. BETYE SAAR, “Still Tickin'” @ Museum Het Domein Sittard | The Netherlands
In her first solo museum exhibition in Europe, Betye Saar is presenting works on paper, sculpture and installations. Based in Los Angeles, Saar is known for her assemblage works composed of found objects and African American collectibles. The retrospective explores three major themes that have resonated throughout her practice over the past six decades: nostalgia and memory; mysticism and ritual; and political and racial representation.

Zanele Muholi (South African, born 1972). Ayanda & Nhlanhla Moremi's wedding I. Kwanele Park, Katlehong, 9 November 2013, 2013. Chromogenic photograph, 10 7/16 x 14 9/16 in. (26.5 x 37 cm), framed. © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
ZANELE MUHOLI, “Ayanda & Nhlanhla Moremi’s wedding I. Kwanele Park, Katlehong, 9 November 2013,” 2013 (chromogenic photograph). | © Zanele Muholi, Courtesy of Stevenson Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

Through Nov. 21, 2015
14. “ZANELE MUHOLI: Isibonelo/Evidence” @ Brooklyn Museum | New York, N.Y.
Both an artist and an activist, South African photographer Zanele Muholi “creates visibility” and gives a voice to the black lesbian and transgender community in her native country. Working in photography, as well as video and installation, her projects have documented same-sex marriage and used first-person accounts to surface the “experience of living in a country that constitutionally protects the rights of LGBTI people but often fails to defend them from targeted violence.” The exhibition, the most comprehensive presentation of Muholi’s practice to date, features 87 works produced between 2007 and 2014.

Installation view of "David Adjaye Selects." Photo: Allison Hale © 2015 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Installation view of “David Adjaye Selects.” | Photo: Allison Hale © 2015 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Copyright: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Through Feb. 14, 2016
15. “DAVID ADJAYE Selects” @ Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum | New York, N.Y.
Architect David Adjaye is the latest creative to participate in the museum’s Selects series. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, Adjaye has designed projects around the world. His most ambitious, the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is slated for completion in 2016. For Selects, he has chosen 14 textiles from West and Central Africa. “When invited to explore Cooper Hewitt’s collection, I was immediately drawn to its African textiles, Adjaye writes for the exhibition. “Like architecture, textiles protect, enclose, and communicate the identity of their users. Through color and scale, organization and repetition, their patterns exert power over how we perceive space.” View catalog.

noah purifoy - junk dada
NOAH PURIFOY, “Untitled,” 1967 (multimedia). | John Outterbridge Collection, © Noah Purifoy Foundation, Photo © Robert Wedemeyer

Through Feb. 28, 2016
16. “NOAH PURIFOY: Junk Dada” @ Los Angeles County Museum of Art | Los Angeles
LACMA is presenting the first major museum retrospective of Noah Purifoy (1917-2004), the Southern California assemblage artist who died under-recognized more than a decade ago. Purifoy was founding director of the Watts Tower Art Center and profoundly influenced artists John Outterbridge, Maren Hassinger, David Hammons, and Senga Nengudi. In the exhibition release, co-curator Franklin Sirmans said: “At the core of Purifoy’s lexicon is the desire to work with or find beauty in what has been discarded—to give new life to an object by changing its context, transforming it from junk to artwork.”

kerry james marshall - above the line
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, Detail of “Above the Line,” 2015 (hand-painted by a professional sign company). | Photo by Timothy Schenck via The High Line

Through May 31, 2016
17. KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Above the Line” @ The High Line | New York, N.Y.
Black folks are moving on up, high above the High Line, courtesy of Kerry James Marshall who is presenting his first public commission in New York. A number of residential buildings have sprouted up along the High Line, advancing the trend, the Chicago-based artist has envisioned his own innovative housing solution. Adjacent to West 22nd Street, Marshall’s hand-painted mural depicts water tanks re-imagined as luxury condominiums and offers a glimpse inside at domestic scenes featuring his signature black figures with emphatically black skin. According to the High Line, the mural image “is an extension of [Marshall’s] Dailies series, specifically the cartoon strip ‘Rhythm Mastr,’ an epic narrative of the struggle between tradition and modernity within the Afro-diasporic worldview.”

DEVIN ALLEN - Running From Police
DEVIN ALLEN, “Running From Police,” 2005 | via Reginald F. Lewis Museum

Through Dec. 7, 2015
18. “DEVIN ALLEN: Awakenings, In a New Light” @ Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture | Baltimore
When protests erupted in West Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man, while in police custody, some of the most compelling images of the intense events came from local photographer Devin Allen. Posted on Instagram, his photographs went viral and soon the amateur began to receive professional recognition. Allen’s work graced the cover of Time magazine and this exhibition marks his first solo show ever.

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HANK WILLIS THOMAS, “Smokin’ Joe Ain’t J’Mama,” 1978/2006
 (LightJet print). | 
Original photographer unknown,
 Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

July 11 – Nov. 1, 2015
19. “Black Like Who?” @ Birmingham Museum of Art | Birmingham, Ala.
Representations of black people have evolved greatly over the course of art history, from very early depictions by others before blacks gained agency to contemporary self reflections and interpretations. Featuring 28 works by 19 artists—both black and white—the exhibition explores how visual perspectives of blackness “have been influenced at particular historical moments by specific political, cultural, and aesthetic interests, as well as the motives and beliefs of the artists.” The works are presented in five categories: “Old Times There Art Not Forgotten: Historical Representations of Race in the South and Beyond”; “Black Like Me: African American Portraits”; “Brown Skin Ladies: Picturing the Black Woman”; “Body and Soul: Rhythmic Representations”; and “From Mammy and Mose to Madison Avenue: Advertising and the Black Image.”

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Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. | Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

July 11 – Nov. 22, 2015
20. “Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now” @ MCA Chicago | Chicago
Drawing its title from a 1984 book by Chicago jazz critic John Litweiler, “Freedom Principle” considers the intersection of art, music and politics. The exhibition explores the “vibrant legacy” of the 1960s African American avant-garde in the form of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) and connects it to contemporary art and culture. Featuring an intergenerational slate of artists, the exhibition is amplified by archival materials, audio platforms, a new collaborative opera to be performed live, and a fully illustrated exhibition catalog.

cheri samba - oui il faut reflechir
CHERI SAMBA, “Oui, il faut réfléchir,” 2014 (acrylic on canvas). | Collection of the artist, © Chéri Samba, Photo © André Morin via Foundation Cartier Pour L’Art Contemporain

July 11 – Nov. 15, 2015
21. “Beaute Congo, Congo Kitoko: 1926-2015” @ Foundation Cartier Pour L’Art Contemporain | Paris
From the birth of modern painting in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1920s, this exhibition showcases the nation’s “extraordinary cultural vitality” over nearly a century. With an emphasis on painting, the presentation includes sculpture and photography, as well as comics and music. From the “precursors” who developed Congo’s first works on paper when it was still a Belgian colony to the 1970s “popular painters” who worked as sign painters and created comics, and a new generation of artists that emerged in the 2000s, this unique show offers an historic overview of Congo’s artistic landscape.

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STANLEY WHITNEY, “My Tina Turner,” 2013 (oil on linen). | Collection Emily Todd Photo: Courtesy the artist and team (gallery, inc.), New York

July 16, 2015 – Oct. 25, 2015
22. “STANLEY WHITNEY: Dance the Orange” @ Studio Museum in Harlem | New York
The Studio Museum is presenting Stanley Whitney‘s first solo museum exhibition in New York City—a selection of 29 paintings and works on paper created between 2008 and 2015. A blend of order and irregularity, Whitney’s square-structured abstracts are characterized by a lyrical march of vivid color. A catalog featuring full-color images of Whitney’s work with writings by exhibition curator Lauren Hayes, Lowery Stokes Sims, Robert Storr and museum director Thelma Golden, is being published to coincide with the show.

10th November 1945: Kenyan statesman Jomo Kenyatta (1891 - 1978) attends the first Pan-African Congress in Manchester. After a spell in prison for his alleged leadership of the Mau Mau Rebellion, Kenyatta became the first president of the Republic Kenya in 1964. Original Publication: Picture Post - 3024 - Africa Speaks in Manchester - pub. 1945  (Photo by John Deakin/Picture Post/Getty Images)
John Kenyatta, the first leader of Kenya after independence, was among those who attended the fifth Pan-African Congress. | JOHN DEAKIN, “Jomo Kenyatta,” 1945. | Courtesy Getty Images. © John Deakin/Picture Post/Getty Images

July 16 – Sept. 12, 2015
23. “Black Chronicles III: Fifth Pan-African Congress” Presented by Autograph ABP @ Rivington Place | London
Seventy years ago, the Fifth Pan-African Congress gathered in Manchester, England, demanding “that European powers liberate hundreds of millions of Africans living under colonial rule, and passed radical measures condemning imperialism, racial discrimination and capitalism.” W.E.B. Du Bois and Kwame Nkrumah were among those who attended the historic 1945 gathering a few months after World War II concluded. The third installment in Autograph ABP’s Black Chronicles series, the exhibition includes more than 30 photographs by John Deakin presented along with rare documentary materials related to the Congress.

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“Triple Beam Dreamer,” 2001–02 (acrylic, oil, leaves, glitter, polyester resin, map pins, and elephant dung on linen) by Chris Ofili | Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York/London, and Victoria Miro, London. © Chris Ofili

July 17 – Nov. 1, 2015
24. “CHRIS OFILI: Night and Day” @ Aspen Art Museum | Aspen, Colo.
British artist Chris Ofili‘s first major solo museum exhibition in the United States will be presented at the Aspen Art Museum in five galleries on three floors and survey his entire career. Exploring race and gender issues through cultural and historical references, his vast and varied oeuvre is both provocative and celebratory, melding “figuration, abstraction and decoration.” More than 30 paintings, numerous drawings and several sculptures will be on view. Originating at the New Museum in New York last fall, the exhibition features “The Holy Virgin Mary,” Ofili’s most recognized and most controversial dung painting from the 1990s, which sold at Christie’s London on June 30 for $4.5 million, a record for the artist.

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ROTIMI FANI-KAYODE, “Adebiyi,” 1989 | Courtesy of Autograph ABP, London via Light Work

Aug. 18 – Oct. 22, 2015
25. ROTIMI FAN-KAYODE @ Light Work | Syracuse, N.Y.
“A seminal and highly influential figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art,” photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode‘s precisely composed portraits consider the politics of the personal in terms of sexuality and spirituality. Born in Nigeria and raised in Britain, Fani-Kayode died early at age 34. His career was brief but significant, with his most important work produced between 1984 and 1989. A collaboration with Autograph ABP in London, this solo retrospective is particularly relevant given the issues surrounding gay rights and same-sex marriage with which many African countries are currently grappling.