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Theaster Gates presented “Plantation Lullabies,” a discussion and performance, at the Hirshhorn Museum Oct. 13.


THE HIRSHHORN MUSEUM was infused with sacred, soulful music on Friday evening. The museum hosted the second installment of Theaster Gates‘s four-part series Processions. The collaborative performances engage “unexpected and unexplored connections between sacred music, African and African American culture and history, theater, world dance and chant.”

Titled “Planatation Lullabies,” the Oct. 13 collaboration featured multidisciplinary artist and jazz drummer Mikel Avery and soprano Ellaina Lewis. The performance was inspired by Meshell Ndegeocello’s 2014 album “Comet, Come to Me.” Through musical expression, the artists also responded to a collection of racist cultural objects, items Gates refers to as “negrophilia.”

“Through their performance, each musician involved in the project will bring new life to artifacts and sheet music, reclaiming the stereotypes and stigmas that constructed the black experience after the 1890s,” Gates said in a statement. “‘Plantation Lullabies’ reexamines the negative imagining of black bodies and black lives, bringing intelligence, creativity and humor to these objects and songs of disgrace to demonstrate their relevance to the present moment.”

The Gates performance preceded additional opportunities to experience the work of major African American artists in Washington, D.C. Talks, exhibitions, and another performance are scheduled in October and November featuring Mark Bradford, Carrie Mae Weems, Amy Sherald, and many others, including a slate of internationally recognized African artists.


MILDRED THOMPSON, “Magnetic Fields,” 1991 (oil on canvas, 70.5 x 150 inches). | Courtesy of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia; art and photo © The Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia


EXHIBITION: “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today” @ National Museum of Women in the Arts | Opened Oct. 13
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is presenting works by 21 black women artists working in abstraction. “Magnetic Fields” spans four generations over the past century, featuring works by Chakaia Booker, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Abigail DeVille, Maren Hassinger, Jennie C. Jones, Howardena Pindell, Mavis Pusey, Sylvia Snowden, Shinique Smith, Alma Thomas, Mildred Thompson, and Brenna Youngblood, among others. On view through Jan. 21, 2018, the exhibition places their work “in context with one another—and within the larger history of abstract art.”


KARA WALKER, “Exodus of Confederates from Atlanta, from the portfolio Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005 (Offset lithograph and screenprint on paper, 39 x 53 inches). | Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment © 2005 Kara Walker


EXHIBITION: “Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)” @ Smithsonian American Art Museum | Opened Oct. 13
The exhibition presents a series of 15 prints by Kara Walker inspired by the two-volume Harper’s anthology published in 1866. Exploring the brutal history of slavery and racial stereotypes, themes common in her practice, she superimposes silhouettes on images from the book. “The shadowy images visually disrupt the original scenes and suffuse them with traumatic scenarios left out of the official record.” The Smithsonian American Art Museum is presenting Walker’s prints in context with the original volumes on which the works are based, both drawn from its collection.


A special installation of CARRIE MAE WEEMS’s “Kitchen Table Series” is on view at the National Gallery of Art through May 18, 2018. Shown, “Untitled (Woman and daughter with makeup) from the Kitchen Table Series,” 1990, printed 2003 (platinum print). | National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee, and Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund


TALK: Carrie Mae Weems @ National Gallery of Art | Oct. 17 POSTPONED
Carrie Mae Weems is discussing her seminal work “Kitchen Table Series” at the National Gallery of Art. The series of 20 images was recently published in book form and a special installation of the work is currently on view at the museum. Among her most important bodies of work, Weems produced “Kitchen Table Series” (1990), early in her career, more than 25 years ago. The images consider domesticity, women’s circumstances, and their relationships with lovers, friends and children. Exploring gender and power roles in an intimate familial setting, Weems placed herself in the staged photographs depicting an archetype coming into her own. The lecture comes a few days before the staging of “Grace Notes” by Weems at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

RESCHEDULED for Feb. 6, 2018 at 12 p.m.


On view at the Driskell Center through Nov. 18, “The Last 10 Years: In Focus” explores the museum’s acquisitions over the past decade.


TALK: Various Artists @ David Driskell Center | Oct. 19
In conjunction with its latest exhibition, “The Last 10 Years: In Focus,” the David Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, is hosting a panel discussion featuring artists represented in the show. The exhibition explores the museum’s acquisitions over the past decade, a broad selection of works in terms of themes, styles, and time periods. Bringing together artists Floyd Coleman, Alonzo Davis, David C. Driskell, Cheryl D. Edwards, Annette Fortt, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Ulysses Marshall, Percy B. Martin, Valerie Maynard, E.J. Montgomery, Theresa Ramey, Preston Sampson, Sylvia Snowden, and Lou Stovall, the panel and the exhibition present an opportunity to consider “questions around collecting, criticism, and legacy.”


Carrie Mae Weems - Staging of Grace Notes - Reflections for Now
“Grace Notes” by CARRIE MAE WEEMS is making its Washington premiere at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 20. | Screen Shot, Art21 Video


PERFORMANCE: Carrie Mae Weems @ John F. Kennedy Center | Oct. 20
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is presenting the Washington, D.C., premiere of “Carrie Mae Weems: Grace Notes: Reflections for Now.” First commissioned for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, Weems is reprising her multimedia stage performance, a response to tragedy and violence against black bodies. The work was inspired by President Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at a memorial service following the murder of the pastor and parishioners of a black church. The multidisciplinary cast for the Kennedy Center performance includes singers Nona Hendryx, Alicia Hall Moran, Imani Uzuri, and Eisa Davis; poets Carl Hancock Rux and Aja Monet; and dancer Francesca Harper.

READ MORE about “Grace Notes” on Culture Type


From left, Ayana V. Jackson, Mary Sibande, Panashe Chigumadzi are discussing race, politics and gender issues.


TALK: “(Re)Visioning Her-Story:The Black Female Body in the Black Female Imagination @ National Museum of African Art | Oct. 25
The National Museum of African Art has invited artist Mary Sibande, photographer Ayana V. Jackson, and writer Panashe Chigumadzi, to disuss how they respond to political and cultural tensions and racial and gender stereotypes in their work. Hosted by Lanisa Kitchiner, director of education and scholarly initiatives at the museum, the panel “will explore how they negotiate intention versus impact in creative works, how they navigate the exclusive art world, and how they use black female bodies—particularly their own—to create alternative visions of black womanhood.”


AMY SHERALD is discussing her practice and new projects at the National Gallery of Art on Oct 29. | Photo by Paul Morigi, 2016/AP Images for National Portrait Gallery, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution


TALK: Amy Sherald @ National Gallery of Art | Oct. 29
Portrait artist Amy Sherald is discussing her practice, process, and recent projects at the National Gallery of Art. She is in conversation with Erin Christovale, the newly appointed assistant curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Painted in grayscale Sherald’s images challenges accepted associations of color with race and emphasize individual style. She “is critical of African American cultural history and the representation of black bodies, and her portraits are satirical manifestations of identities shaped by political, social, economic, and cultural influences.” The Baltimore-based artist won the National Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Announced last week, her latest coup is being commissioned by the Portrait Gallery to paint the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. A solo exhibition of Sherald’s work opens at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in May 2018.

The event is scheduled in coordination with “Now Be Here #4, DMV,” a historic gathering of women artists at the National Museum of Women in the Arts for a group photograph on Oct. 25.


LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE (b. 1977), “Womanology 12,” 2014 (Oil on canvas). | Museum purchase, 2015-5-1, via National Museum of African Art


EXHIBITION: Various Artists @ National Museum of African Art | Opens Nov. 4
“Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa’s Arts” features more than 300 works in a range of mediums selected from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s collection. The presentation is “organized around the central activity of looking—looking closely at issues of technique and creative expression, looking broadly at the varied lives these assembled objects have lived, and looking critically at how new contexts shift how we see artworks.” With roots in Africa, the impressive slate of artists represented, including El Anatsui, Sokari Douglas Camp, Romuald Hazoumè, Julie Mehretu, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, live and work around the world.


Detail of MARK BRADFORD, “Politically and socially, we are at the edge of another precipice. And those of us who are artists must charge into the fray,” 2017 (mixed media). | Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth


EXHIBITION: Mark Bradford @ Hirshhorn Museum | Opens Nov. 8
Mark Bradford is representing the United States at the Venice Biennial, presenting a solo exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion through Nov. 26. “Pickett’s Charge,” at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, is the Los Angeles-based artist’s first-ever exhibition in Washington, D.C. The title of the presentation references a Confederate general’s failed charge against Union troops in 1863. Drawing on the Smithsonian’s archives, the abstract work will address contemporary political issues and confront U.S. history. Announced two years ago, the site-specific commission was described as spanning nearly 400 linear feet, utilizing the entire expanse of the inner ring of the Hirshhorn’s cylindrical, third-floor gallery. Over time, the focus and inspiration for the installation have evolved. Currently, the exhibition’s description is a quote from Bradford: “Politically and socially, we are at the edge of another precipice. And those of us who are artists must charge into the fray.”

READ MORE about Mark Bradford’s forthcoming exhibition on Culture Type

CAMPUS TALK Mark Bradford is speaking Nov. 2 at Howard University in Recital Hall at 6 p.m.


IN CONVERSATION Mark Bradford is talking with Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art on Nov. 11 at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore


From left, Works by SYLVIA SNOWDEN (detail) | via sylviasnowden.com; SHINIQUE SMITH, “Bale Variant No. 0017,” 2009 (clothing, fabric, ink, twine, ribbon, and wood). | Denver Art Museum Collection; Gift of Baryn Futa to the Collection of the Denver Art Museum, 2013.6A-B; © Shinique Smith


TALK: Sylvia Snowden & Shinique Smith @ National Museum of Women in the Arts | Nov. 28
Works by artist Sylvia Snowden and Shinique Smith appear in the recently opened exhibition “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Snowden is a Washington, D.C., painter and Brooklyn-baseed Smith, works with fabric, clothing and photography. Born three decades apart, the artists “represent the multigenerational continuum of visual abstraction in America.” Each will discuss their work and share stories about their practices.


NEXT YEAR AT THE HIRSHHORN, Gates’s series continues with a third performance planned for Spring 2018. Tapping into Washington’s rich history of jazz, folk, and gospel, he will continue to collaborate with musicians, vocalists, dancers, and fellow artists, as well as students in the region. CT


UPDATE 10/17/17: Shortly before it was scheduled to begin, the Carrie Mae Weems lecture at the National Gallery of Art (10/17) was cancelled. Museum officials said the event was postponed “due to transportation issues.” Also, Bookshelf recommendations and a few programs have been added to this post, including an exhibition and related artist talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.


“Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today” accompanies the groundbreaking exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. In “Carrie Mae Weems: Kitchen Table Series,” the artist’s seminal series, including all 20 images along with the 14 text panels, is published in its entirety for the first time. A catalog documenting the Mark Bradford exhibition “Pickett’s Charge” is forthcoming in February 2018.

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