THE YEAR AHEAD MARKS KEY HISTORIC MILESTONES. Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. King’s legacy will be honored this year through many programs and events. A new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture examines the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, a national anti-poverty movement King envisioned before his death.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of pivotal moments in art history. Chief among them, the Studio Museum in Harlem was established in 1968, the same year the artist collective AfriCOBRA was formed in Chicago. Fast forward to 2018 and as the Studio Museum celebrates a half century serving as “the nexus for artist of African descent,” it is embarking on its next chapter. This month, the Harlem institution is temporarily moving out of its 125th Street location in anticipation of the construction of its new home on the same site. Meanwhile, AfriCOBRA and its original members are enjoying unprecedented attention.

Among the most anticipated museum exhibitions in 2018, are solo shows of African American artists who, similar to AfriCOBRA members, are receiving delayed institutional recognition—Bill Traylor, Augusta Savage, and Charles White, among them. Spanning generations, compelling contemporary artists are also opening first-ever museum surveys this year.

There is some amazing stuff on the horizon. The new year brings a fascinating selection of exhibitions and events. In chronological order, here is what to look forward to in African American art in 2018:


ROBERT HOUSTON,” Unidentified Child or Children,” May 21, 1968 – June 23, 1968 (photographic transparency of the Poor People’s Campaign, reversal film). | Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture 2015.245.280, Black Star © Robert Houston

City of Hope: Resurrection City & the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign | National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., Opened Jan. 9, 2018

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visionary campaign for the poor, the Smithsonian’s African American museum in Washington, D.C., is paying tribute to his legacy with an exhibition that examines the civil rights leader’s fight against American poverty. Through newly discovered photographs, archival footage, new oral histories, musical recordings, and related objects, “City of Hope” explores The Poor People’s Campaign, a racially and ethnically diverse, national movement initiated by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1968. The campaign, which culminated in a six-week occupation of the National Mall, called for economic opportunity and economic security equating these demands for the poor with human rights. SEE Poverty stats then and now.


Lévy Gorvy says the exhibition curated by artist Charles Gaines, a close collaborator and friend of Terry Adkins, seeks to illuminate the late artist’s “revolutionary oeuvre through fresh eyes, grounded in the conceptual and personal rapport” between the two groundbreaking figures. | Photo via Lévy Gorvy

Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, The Assembled | Lévy Gorvy Gallery, New York, N.Y., Jan. 10-Feb. 17, 2018

After announcing its representation of the estate of Terry Adkins (1953–2014) at the end of the last year, Lévy Gorvy is presenting “Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, The Assembled,” its first exhibition dedicated the conceptual artist and composer. Adkins’s unique interdisciplinary practice spanned performance, music, sculpture, and installation. Curated by Los Angeles artist Charles Gaines, a close friend and collaborator of Adkins, the New York exhibition “focuses on the formal methods he employed to distill his art down to the very ‘essence’ of his materials, often mining the history of the African diaspora for marginalized forms and figures. By reconsidering and reconfiguring established narratives in his installations and performances.”

In the coming months, a spring survey of Adkins’s work will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (April 1-June28). A catalog is planned to document the exhibition.


BARBARA JONES-HOGU, “Unite (First State),” 1969 (screenprint). | © Barbara Jones-Hogu, Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art

Barbara Jones-Hogu: Resist, Relate, Unite 1968-1975 | DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, Jan. 11-March 25, 2018

A founding member of the artist collective AfriCOBRA, Barbara Jones-Hogu (1938-2017) recently died, months before her first solo museum exhibition opens in Chicago, the city where she spent almost her entire life. “Barbara Jones-Hogu: Resist, Relate, Unite 1968-1975” features works on paper including woodcuts, etchings, lithographs, and screenprints, many being presented publicly for the first time.


Arthur Mitchell rehearsing early Dance Theatre of Harlem company dancers as children look on, early 1970s. | Unknown photographer. Arthur Mitchell Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer | Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., Jan. 13-March 11, 2018

“Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer” is the first major exhibition to explore the life and career of the estimable Arthur Mitchell, a trailblazer at the New York City Ballet, its first African American star (1955-71), and founder of the critically acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem. Drawing from the personal archive Mitchell donated to Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2014, the exhibition features photographs, drawings, posters, memorabilia, and video footage. But to Mitchell’s disappointment, no dancing.


The exhibition programming includes LaToya Ruby Frazier in conversation with artists, curators, and thought leaders on Jan. 27, Feb. 3, and Feb. 24, 2018. | via Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

LaToya Ruby Frazier Exhibition | Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, N.Y., Jan. 14-Feb. 25, 2018

Spanning photography, video, and performance, LaToya Ruby Frazier’s practice “centers on the nexus of social justice, cultural change and commentary on the American experience.” Her first solo exhibition with Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is her most expansive presentation in New York and features three of her most recognized bodies of work—”Flint is Family,” “The Notion of Family,” and “A Pilgrimage to Noah Purifoy’s Desert Art Museum.”


JEFF DONALDSON, “Majorities,” 1977 (mixed media, 44 x 36 inches). | © Jeff Donaldson, Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York

Jeff Donaldson: Dig | Everson Museum, Syracuse, N.Y., Jan. 20-April 29, 2018

The first museum retrospective of Jeff Donaldson (1932-2004), a co-founder of the artist collective AfriCOBRA, who served as chair of the art department at Howard University, is being presented in Syracuse, N.Y. “Jeff Donaldson: Dig” spans the artist’s four-decade career and features paintings, prints, and mixed media works, some being shown publicly for the first time, along with AfriCOBRA memorabilia and posters.


RODNEY MCMILLIAN, “Untitled (still),” 2017. Forthcoming video work. | Commissioned by The Contemporary Austin with funds provided by the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize. Artwork © Rodney McMillian. Image courtesy the artist; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; and Maccarone, Los Angeles/New York

Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death | The Austin Contemporary, Feb. 1-Aug. 26, 2018

Multidisciplinary artist Rodney McMillian won the inaugural Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, which includes a scholarly publication and an exhibition at The Contemporary Austin opening in February. With the state of U.S. politics serving as a foundation and inspiration, the exhibition furthers McMillian’s “formal inquiry into painting, abstraction, and performance with a discomforting social critique of American histories, injustices, and structures of power.” The show occupies both floors of the museum’s Jones Center site, with the first floor featuring works executed in white, and on the second floor in all black.

READ MORE about McMillian’s exhibition at The Contemporary Austin


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “What’s Goin On,” 1974 (oil, acrylic, and magna on cotton canvas, 65 3/4 x 83 3/4 in.). | © Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist’s estate and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power | Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark., Feb. 3-April 23, 2018

After opening at the Tate Modern in London last summer, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” makes its U.S. debut in Bentonville, Ark. More than 170 works by more than 60 artists, working both individually and within collectives such as Spiral and AfriCOBRA, are presented in the show. Next it travels to the Brooklyn Museum in September.


ROBERT COLESCOTT, “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook,” 1975 (acrylic on canvas). | Private Collection, St. Louis, © 2017 Estate of Robert Colescott / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Photo by Jean Paul Torno

“Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas” | Seattle Art Museum, Feb. 15-May 13, 2018

“Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas” presents works by three critically recognized African American artists, drawn from the collections various institutions, private individuals, and the holdings of the Seattle Art Museum. The exhibition will explore how their distinct approaches to figuration and history painting have recast the Western canon and challenged perceptions of race and representation in a contemporary context.


HOWARDENA PINDELL, Detail of “Untitled #20 (Dutch Wives Circled and Squared),” 1978 (mixed media on canvas; 86 × 110 in. (218.4 × 279.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Albert A. Robin by exchange, 2014.15. Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Feb. 24-May 20, 2018

“Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen” is the first major survey of the multidisciplinary New York-based artist. The exhibition features works spanning five decades to the present, showcasing Pindell’s inventive approach methods and materials in her painting, which has included scattering her canvases with tiny circles from a hole punch.


MAREN HASSINGER, “Twelve Trees,” 1979 (four black and white photographs). | Courtesy of the artist and Brockman Gallery Productions

Maren Hassinger: The Spirit of Things | Art + Practice, Los Angeles, Feb. 24-May 26, 2018

Maren Hassinger got her start in Los Angeles in the 1970s when she was active with a group of fellow experimental artists including David Hammons and Senga Nengudi. An artist and educator, Hassinger’s multidisciplinary practice explores relationships among people, materials, and environments through performance, sculpture, and video. “Maren Hassinger: The Spirit of Things” presents examples of her work including across four decades.

“I don’t think my work has so much to do with ecology, but focuses on elements, or even problems—social and environmental—that we all share, and in which we all have a stake. I don’t think that’s an ecological statement. I want it to be a humane and humanistic statement about our future.” — Maren Hassinger

SONDRA PERRY, Detail of “ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,” 2017 (video and bicycle workstation). | Courtesy of the artist. Photo Credit by Matthew Vicari

Sondra Perry Exhibition | Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, March 6-June 3, 2018

New Jersey-based Sondra Perry’s practice explores abstraction and representation through video, computer-based media, and performance. Her work “revolves around black American history and ways in which technology shapes identities, often with her own personal history as a point of departure.” After winning the 2017 Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize, Perry is coming into her own and gaining wider attention. Her exhibition at Serpentine Galleries is her first solo show in Europe.

Currently, she has a solo exhibition at Bridget Donahue Gallery in New York through Feb. 25, 2018. The Knight | Lawrence Prize includes an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. “Sondra Perry: Eclogue for [in]HABITABILITY” is on view at the museum through July 1, 2018.


Aperture’s forthcoming Prison Nation issue accompanies a related exhibition and programming featuring Nigel Poor, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick, Deborah Luster, Jamel Shabazz, and Lorenzo Steele Jr., among others.

Aperture Magazine: Prison Nation | March 6, 2018

“Prison Nation,” the Spring issue of Aperture magazine explores mass incarceration in the United States and the role of photography in documenting the “national crisis.” Given the fact that prisoners (lacking access to cameras) are unable to create a visual record of their own experience, the publication and accompanying exhibition and related programming at the Aperture Foundation in New York (Feb. 7-March 7, 2018), consider “how can images tell the story of mass incarceration when the imprisoned don’t have control over their own representation? How can photographs visualize a reality that, for many, remains outside of view?”

“Americans, even those who have never been to a prison or had a relative in prison, need to realize that we are all implicated in a form of governance that uses prison as a solution to many social, economic, and political problems.” …Prison Nation may provoke us to see parts of ourselves in the lives of those on the inside.” — Nicole R. Fleetwood, historian

René Peña, “Man Made Materials,” 2000 (digital print). | Courtesy of the artist via Black Portraiture[s]

Black Portraiture[s] IV: The Color of Silence | Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., March 22-24

A gathering of artists, scholars, and activists, Black Portraiture[s] IV, the eighth conference in a series of conversations about imaging the black body, is being held at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research in Cambridge, Mass.


Installation view of ADRIAN PIPER exhibition at Lévy Gorvy (Sept. 14-Oct. 21, 2017). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016 | Museum of Modern Art, New York, N.Y., March 31-July 22, 2018

Opening in New York, “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016” is the first major retrospective to explore the practice of Adrian Piper, a conceptual pioneer. The exhibition will feature more than 280 works, spanning video, sound, multimedia installation, performance, painting, works on paper, and photo/text-based graphics, drawn from public and private collections.


“Lorna Simpson: Collages” | Chronicle Books, April 3, 2018

With an introduction by poet Elizabeth Alexander, this forthcoming volume assembles Lorna Simpson’s collage portraits. Layering images of women and men culled from vintage Ebony and Jet magazines “with colorful ink washes, striking geological formations, and dreamy skyscapes, Simpson creates fantastical coiffures that pay homage to the beauty of Black hair.”

In addition, “Lorna Simpson Unanswerable,” the artist’s first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth Gallery featuring new paintings, photographic collage and sculpture, opens March 1 in London.


JACK WHITTEN, Detail of “Lucy,” 2011 (black mulberry, mixed media, Phaistos stone, mahogany, metal I-beam). | Courtesy the artist

Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963-2016 | Baltimore Museum of Art, April 22-July 29, 2018

Working in conceptual abstraction, Jack Whitten is known for his mixed-media paintings. “Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963-2016” features 40 sculptures made over a period of five decades, presenting publicly for the first time a previously unknown aspect of his practice.


JASON MORAN, “STAGED. Three Deuces,” 2015 (Photo by Farzad Owrang. © Jason Moran, Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York via Walker Art Center

Jason Moran Exhibition | Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minn., April 26-Aug. 26, 2018

A composer, jazz pianist, and artistic director of jazz at the Kennedy Center, Jason Moran’s career is distinguished by collaborations with visual artists. In recent years, he has developed independent works presented at the 2015 Venice Biennial and Luhring Augustine Gallery. Opening in Minneapolis, this is the first museum exhibition of his interdisciplinary practice, which is “grounded in musical composition, yet bridges the visual and performing arts through stagecraft,” he is presenting


A preview of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a memorial to lynching that the Equal Justice Initiative is building on six acres it purchased overlooking the city of Montgomery, Ala. | Video by EJI

National Memorial for Peace and Justice | Montgomery, Ala., April 26, 2018

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) notes that there is no shortage of monuments memorializing the Confederacy and while there are a few that recognize slavery, none acknowledge America’s history of lynching. EJI has documented more than 4,000 “racial terror lynchings” between 1877 to 1950—black men, women, and children who were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, or beaten to death by white mobs.” Envisioned by EJI, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., the first memorial to lynching, includes a new museum devoted to the legacy of slavery.


CHARLES WHITE, “Harvest Talk,” 1953 (charcoal, Wolff’s carbon drawing pencil, and graphite, with stumping and erasing on ivory wood pulp laminate board). | The Art Institute of Chicago, Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hartman, 1991.126

Charles White: A Retrospective | Art Institute of Chicago, June 10-Sept. 3, 2018

Charles White was a master draftsmen whose powerful, realist images captured the “truth, dignity, and beauty” of African American people. Marking the centennial of White’s birth, “Charles White: A Retrospective” is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in three decades. The exhibition charts “the development of White’s practice, from his emergence as a force in the Chicago art world through his mature career as an artist, activist, and educator in New York and Los Angeles.” Next, the retrospective travels to the Museum of Modern Art in New York where it opens Oct. 7.


Installation view of “Tomorrow is Another Day” at U.S. Pavilion, 2017 Venice Biennale. From left, MARK BRADFORD, “Leucosia,” 2016 (mixed media on canvas); “Medusa,” 2016 (acrylic, paint, paper, rope, caulk), and “Raidne,” 2017 (mixed media on canvas).

Mark Bradford: Tomorrow’s Another Day | Baltimore Museum of Art, September 2018-March 2019

This fall, “Tomorrow is Another Day,” Mark Bradford’s solo exhibition for the 2017 Venice Biennale is making its U.S. debut at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). The museum co-presented Bradford’s exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion and it was co-curated by Christopher Bedford, director of BMA and commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion, and Katy Siegel, BMA senior programming and research curator.

Los Angeles-based Bradford also has two gallery exhibitions with Hauser & Wirth earlier in the year. “You Remind Me of a Friend of Mine,” his first exhibition at the gallery’s Los Angeles location features new works and opens Feb. 17. At the end of March, Hauser & Wirth’s inaugural exhibition in Hong Kong is devoted to Bradford. The gallery is launching its latest space with a new body of large-scale paintings by Bradford (March 27-May 12, 2018). Meanwhile, “Pickett’s Charge,” at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, Bradford’s first exhibition in Washington, D.C., is on view through Nov. 12, 2018.

“’Tomorrow Is Another Day’ is the culmination of my personal and artistic process leading up to this incredible moment of representing the United States, but it also addresses the difficulties experienced by so many others who are trying to create foundations for themselves and find their footing. The exhibition is not just about me, but about all of those who feel like they’re on the periphery.” — Mark Bradford

Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s commission is inspired by murals found throughout Brixton, a diverse London borough with a sizable population with Caribbean roots. | Images via Art on the Underground

Njideka Akunyili Crosby Commission | Art on the Underground, London, September 2018

Art on the Underground commissions public art for London Underground, the UK capital’s Tube commuter train system. For 2018, it is presenting a yearlong program with an international selection of women artists commemorating 100 years since the Representation of the People Act gave all men and “some” women over the age of 30 the right to vote for the first time. Commissions include works for billboards, platforms, and Tube maps. Njideka Akunyili Crosby is creating the first commission at Brixton Station, a mural scheduled to debut in September.

Currently, “Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby – Counterparts” is on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art through March 11, 2018.


BILL TRAYLOR, “Untitled (Radio),” circa 1939–1942 (opaque watercolor and pencil on printed advertising cardboard). | Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor | Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 2018-March 17, 2019

“Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor” will present about 200 works by self-taught Alabama artist Bill Traylor. Described as the most comprehensive examination to date of Traylor’s work, this groundbreaking exhibition in Washington, D.C., is the first museum retrospective of an artist born into slavery.


AUGUSTA SAVAGE at work on The Harp, 1935-1945, New York World’s Fair (1939-1940). | Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Augusta Savage: Artist-Community-Activist | Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 12, 2018-April 28, 2019

“Augusta Savage: Artist-Community-Activist” presents nearly 50 sculptures, paintings, and works on paper. On view in Jacksonville, Fla., about 40 minutes from where the Harlem Renaissance-era artist and educator was born, this exhibition reassesses Augusta Savage’s place in American sculpture and includes the publication of a fully illustrated catalog featuring new scholarship.


GORDON PARKS, “Washington, D.C. Government Charwoman (American Gothic),” 1942 (gelatin silver print). | Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks: The New Tide, 1940-1950 | National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Nov. 4, 2018-Feb. 18, 2019

The Gordon Parks archive is so vast that there are often multiple exhibitions of his images on view around the world at any one time. This exhibition is unique in that it is the first-ever to explore his early career in the 1940s as a self-taught photographer in St. Paul and Chicago, before he began his pioneering work for Ebony, Vogue, Fortune and Life magazines. The exhibition features 120 photographs and related magazines, books, letters, and personal family photos. A fully illustrated catalog presenting new scholarship and previously unpublished photographs will document the exhibition. CT


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