CULTURE TYPE IS REVIEWING The Year in Black Art 2015 in monthly installments over the coming weeks. The report began with a look at The Newsmakers, seven artists and curators who continue to advance their practices and their projects with fresh approaches and new ideas—efforts that are recognized and often garner significant news coverage.

The review continues with the year’s most significant moments in February, such as William Pope.L’s appearance on the cover of Artforum, and other major events and important exhibitions including “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” at the Brooklyn Museum. A plethora of art news, new books, appointments, awards and honors, acquisitions, and other developments in African American art and throughout the diaspora, is also highlighted. Next up, February.


Happy 113th Birthday Langston Hughes. | Animated Google doodle by Katy Wu

NEWS | Feb. 1: Google features a jazz-inspired, animated daily doodle of Langston Hughes in celebration of the legendary poet’s 113th birthday. Hughes collaborated with a number of visual artists including Mexican painter Miguel Covarrubias, who illustrated “The Weary Blues,” Hughes’s first books, a collection of poems published in 1926; photographer Roy DeCarava on “The Sweet Flypaper of Life”; German-American artist Winold Reiss; and artist Aaron Douglas, his friend and Harlem Renaissance peer.

glenn ligon - come out< BOOK | Feb. 1: “Glenn Ligon: Come Out” complements the Brooklyn-based artist Glenn Ligon‘s show by the same name at Thomas Dane Gallery in London. It featured three monumental screen-printed paintings based on “Come Out,” the 1966 work by American composer Steve Reich, a pioneer of minimalism in music.

NEWS | Feb. 4: According to the Contra Costa Times, Unity Lewis, grandson of Samella Lewis, intends to compile and publish an updated version of “Black Artists on Art,” the artist’s out-of-print volume that was published in 1969 and 1971. The newspaper reports that Lewis is pursuing the project with art entrepreneur Trevor Parham, and that the pair is partnering with the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco to help enlist artist participation.

APPOINTMENT | Feb. 4: the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia announces the election of three new trustees to its board including Catherine Hughes, chair and founder of Radio One Inc., the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the United States, and Gregory Charles Miller, a pharmaceutical industry executive and longtime education philanthropist.

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AARON DOUGLAS, “Into Bondage,” 1936 (oil on canvas). | Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection) 2014.79.17

ACQUISITIONS | Feb. 5: The National Gallery of Art (NGA) announces that it is bringing thousands of works from the Corcoran Gallery of Art into its collection. The acquisition features more than 190 works by African American artists, including the Evans-Tibbs collection of African American art. After the Corcoran was shuttered in October 2014, its dissolution included a court-approved plan for the National Gallery to assume custody of the museum’s collection, along with its curatorial records. The new works expand the holdings of African American art by about 40 percent. For the first time, NGA owns works by Aaron Douglas, William Edmondson, Gordon Parks, Noah Purifoy and Betye Saar, among others. READ MORE here and here.

NEWS | Feb. 6: Robert L. Johnson, founder of The RLJ Companies and Black Entertainment Television (BET), donates a selection of artworks from his privately owned Barnett-Aden Collection to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). In announcing the gift, the Smithsonian reports that it includes works by Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, Archibald Motley Jr., Henry O. Tanner, and Frederick C. Flemister.


Take an audio tour of the Jean-Michel Basquiat “Now’s the Time” exhibition.

EXHIBITION | Feb. 7: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time” opens at Art Gallery Ontario in Toronto, Canada. Touted as the first major retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work in Canada, this important exhibition features nearly 85 large-scale paintings and drawings gathered from public and private collections in North America and Europe. The accompanying catalog includes an essay by Franklin Sirmans.

EXHIBITION | Feb. 7: The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, London, presents “Yinka Shonivare: The William Morris Family Album.” On view at the home where William Morris, the British textile designer, author and social activist lived from ages 14 to 21, the gallery turned to London-born, Lagos, Nigeria-raised Yinka Shonibare MBE, for its first major commission.

MAGAZINE | For his “An Economy of Grace” exhibition at Sean Kelly gallery in 2012, Kehinde Wiley painted portraits of women for the first time. Similar to the manner in which he usually identifies his male subjects, he casted the models directly from the streets. Plucked from Harlem and Brooklyn, he styled them in one-of-a-kind couture gowns for the paintings. In advance of the Feb. 20 opening of “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” an overview of the artist’s 14-year carer at the Brooklyn Museum, he collaborated with the models again, this time styling the women in designs by Chloe, Erdem, Rodarte, the Row, and Valentino, among others, for an enchanting Spring Portfolio published on Feb. 8 in New York magazine.

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TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, Detail of “He Just Was,” 2014 (diptych: charcoal, pastel, marker,and graphite on paper). | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

MAGAZINE | Feb. 9: BOMB magazine publishes an interview with Toyin Ojih Odutola on race, representation and inspiration. The Nigerian-born artist lives and works in New York where her practice focuses on instantly recognizable portraits executed in charcoal, ink and often ballpoint pen. “Of Context and Without,” an exhibition of new work by Odutola just opened at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York (Dec. 11, 2015—Jan. 30, 2016). READ MORE

passover seder dinner @ white house - april 3, 2015
Installation view of “Resurrection,” 1966 by Alma Thomas (acrylic and graphite on canvas), during a White House Passover Seder dinner on April 3, 2015. | The George B. Hartzog, Jr. White House Acquisition Trust (White House Historical Association). Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

NEWS | Feb. 10: First Lady Michelle Obama reveals the newly refurbished Old Family Dining Room where Alma Thomas‘s “Resurrection” is displayed on the north wall. The painting is the first artwork by an African American woman to hang in the public spaces of the White House and enter the permanent collection. READ MORE

AUCTION | Feb. 11: Theaster Gates posts a record sale during the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Christie’s London. A six-part installation of framed objects created in 2011, “For Race Riots and Salon Gatherings” sells for $369,328. READ MORE

AUCTION | Feb. 12: At Phillips London, Mark Bradford‘s “Biting the Book” sells for more than $3.8 million, then a record for the Los Angeles-based artist. A large-scale, mixed-media painting created in 2013, it was featured in Bradford’s “Through the Darkest America by Truck and Tank” exhibition at London’s White Cube Gallery. READ MORE

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Kadir Nelson illustrated one of nine covers marking the New Yorker’s 90th anniversary.

MAGAZINE | In celebration of its 90th anniversary, the New Yorker magazine commissions nine covers by nine illustrators including Los Angeles=based illustrator Kadir Nelson. The magazine’s first issue in February 1925 featured an iconic character who later became known as Eustace Tilley. He has been parodied and reinterpreted over the years and appeared on every February edition until 1994. To mark its 90th, the magazine turns to the character once again for inspiration. Nelson re-imagines him as a black man checking his smart phone.
READ MORE

EXHIBITION | Feb. 14: A rare overview of the career of highly regarded Cuban artist Wilredo Lam (1902-1982), “Imagining New Worlds” opens at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, featuring more than 40 paintings, along with drawings, prints and ephemera. Examining Lam’s entire career, the retrospective brings together a wide selection of his masterworks, presented together for the first time.

MAGAZINE | Hampton University’s International Review of African American Art (IRAAA) publishes a new edition in mid-February, Volume 25 No. 3 focusing on emerging artists.

william pope.l - artforum - feb 2015
WILLIAM POPE.L, Foraging (Asphyxia Version) (detail), 1993–95/2008, digital C-print, 19 1/8 × 18 1/2″. From the series “Black Domestic Project,” 1993–95. | Artforum Cover February 2015

MAGAZINE | The February 2015 cover of Artforum features a photograph of a William Pope.L performance, “Foraging (Asphyxia Version)” (1993-95/2008), in which the artist appears to be suffocating himself with a plastic bag. The magazine chose the image to illustrate “Material Witness,” a four-page essay by David Joselit on “visual evidence and the case of Eric Garner.” Pope.L spoke at length about how he felt about it at a College Art Association (CAA) conference. ARTnews reported on Feb. 17 about the artist’s comments during the CAA “Annual Distinguished Artists” series interview. The artist said he was unaware his work would appear on the the cover until it was published. According to ARTnews, he essentially said the magazine’s coverage of the topic was lacking—both in terms of the amount and substance-wise—and that if he wanted to weigh in as an artist on the killing of Garner and other black men at the hands of police that was his prerogative, not Artforum’s. “I have a very divided take about being on the cover of Artforum. That’s something I’m supposed to want. All artist are supposed to want that. It’s really funny when you get what you want and you have no idea what it is,” Pope.L said in part. “Eric Garner’s death, or Trayvon Martin’s, or Michael Brown’s, those deaths are much larger than my career… It was one of the first times I’ve ever seen a topical cover… No, really, I’ve never missed an issue in 50 years… It’s troubling… Leave me out of it.”

According to ARTnews, William Pope.L essentially said the magazine’s coverage of the topic was lacking—both in terms of the amount and substance-wise—and that if he wanted to weigh in as an artist on the killing of Garner and other black men at the hands of police that was his prerogative, not Artforum’s.

AWARD/HONOR | Feb. 20: The Art Institute of Chicago honors 99-year-old Eldzier Cortor (1916-2015) with its 2015 Legends and Legacy Award. The celebration coincided with the opening of “Eldzier Cortor Coming Home: Recent Gifts to the Art Institute” (Feb. 21-May 31, 2015). Echoing the exhibition’s title, it was a true homecoming. The evening after he received the recognition from the institute, the South Side Community Arts Center hosted an event celebrating Cortor that included a public conversation between the artist and Nigel Freeman, director of African American fine art at Swann Auction Galleries. READ MORE

kehinde wiley - a new republic
“Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” an overview of the artist’s career opened in February and an accompanying catalog was published.

EXHIBITION | Feb. 20: “Kehinde WIley: A New Republic,” a survey of Kehinde Wiley‘s career since 2001 opens at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition and accompanying catalog features 60 sculptures and paintings that riff on images from the art historical canon, challenging accepted notions of race, gender and representation.

TALK | Feb. 21: Inspired by the forthcoming debut of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the 2015 Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series is titled “Curating Black America” and features a keynote lecture by Lonnie Bunch, founding director of NMAAHC. The Rutgers University event also includes presentations by Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem; Robert Stanton, former director of the National Park Service; and George McDaniel, Executive Director of the Drayton Hall Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina.

al loving - torn canvasAWARD/HONOR | Feb. 18: The High Museum of Art in Atlanta announces that Kirsten Pai Buick is the recipient of the 2015 David Driskell Prize. Established in 2005, the #23,000 prize is described as the first national award to recognize an early or mid-career scholar or artist whose work makes significant contribution to the field of African American art or art history. An associate professor of art history at the University of New Mexico, Buick is honored at a May 2 dinner.

< BOOK | Feb. 24: “Al Loving: Torn Canvas” is published complementing a 2012 exhibition at Gary Schneider Gallery in New York, the first dedicated to the artist’s work since his death in 2005. Al Loving worked with torn fabric, piecing together canvases to create abstract shapes and surprising color combinations. Born in Detroit, he moved to New York after studying painting at the University of Michigan. A year later, in 1969, he became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

AWARD/HHONOR | Feb. 26: The International Center of Photography honors LaToya Ruby Frazier (publication) and “Question Bridge: Black Males” (new media), the project created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith, Kamal Sinclair, and Jesse Williams, with 2015 Infinity Awards. The recognition is designed to bring attention to excellence in photography and identify future artists of distinction.


Franklin Sirmans, 2015 Susan Sherman Distinguished Speaker at CAM St. Louis

TALK | Feb. 23: The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis welcomes curator Franklin Sirmans as its 2015 Susan Sherman Distinguished Speaker. The series “is designed to bring scholarship and art commentary of the highest caliber to St. Louis.” Sirmans discusses Prospect.3 the three-month citywide exhibition in New Orleans (Oct. 25, 2015-Jan. 25, 2016) for which he served as artistic director.

David Adjaye - Cultured Mag cover Feb:March 2015BOOK | Feb. 24: “Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones: 20 Years of Drawing” is published, coinciding with the 30-year survey of the Houston-based Trenton Doyle Hancock‘s character-driven work organized by the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, the first in-depth consideration of his drawings, collages, and works on paper. In 2015, the exhibition traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, where it is on view through the end of the year.

MAGAZINE > | Architect David Adjaye covers the February/March edition of Cultured magazine. The cover profile titled “Social Studies with David Adjaye,” states that the passionate case he makes for “social architecture” sets him apart from his peers. “David has truly changed the way I think about architecture, with his unique perspective on and sensitivity to the relationship between the human body and the built environment,” says Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “He envisions buildings that are not just structures where life and culture are experienced, but places that truly shape who we are and how we live.”

NEWS | Feb. 28: Barron’s reports William Louis-Dreyfus plans to sell his art collection with proceeds benefitting the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit that provides education and healthcare support for poor Harlem children and their families. Louis-Dreyfus is the father of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is known for playing Elaine on “Seinfeld” and, more recently, starring in “Veep.” CT