“Everything #2.8” (2003) by Adrian Piper

THE PRESENTATION of Adrian Piper’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was historic. “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016” was the museum’s largest-ever exhibition devoted to a living artist. At once sprawling and intentionally organized, the show featured more than 290 works. A conceptual pioneer, Piper was born in New York City and is based in Berlin. She has worked in a range of mediums, pointedly considering gender, race, and cultural issues over the past half century.

In his New York Times review, Holland Cotter called the exhibition a “clarifying and complicating” view of Piper’s career. “It is also an image-altering event for MoMA itself. It makes the museum feel like a more life-engaged institution than the formally polished one we’re accustomed to,” Cotter said.

“Despite the show’s retrospective cast, we find fiery issues of the present—racism, misogyny, xenophobia—burning in MoMA’s pristine galleries. The reality that art and its institutions are political to the core—both for what they do and do not say—comes through. And the museum, for once, seems intent on asserting this. For the first time it has given over all of its sixth floor special exhibition space to a single living artist. The artist so honored is a woman, who has focused on, among many other things, the hard fact of racism and the fiction of race.”

“Despite the show’s retrospective cast, we find fiery issues of the present—racism, misogyny, xenophobia—burning in MoMA’s pristine galleries.” — Holland Cotter on Adrian Piper at MoMA

AFTER DEBUTING earlier this year, career-spanning retrospectives of Piper, Charles White, and Howardena Pindell are traveling to new venues this fall where audiences in Los Angeles, New York, and Richmond, Va., respectively, will have an opportunity to experience their work on unprecedented scales.

“A Synthesis of Intuitions” was the most comprehensive exhibition of Piper’s work to date. It closed at MoMA in July and, when it opens next month at the Hammer Museum, it will be a scaled down version titled “Adrian Piper: Concepts and Intuitions, 1965-2016.” The Los Angeles Museum is showing about 260 works by Piper.

ADRIAN PIPER, “Catalysis III,” 1970 (documentation of the performance, Two gelatin silver prints and text mounted on colored paper, Overall dimensions 8.5 × 11 inches / 21.6 × 27.9 cm). | Photographs by Rosemary Mayer. Collection Thomas Erben, New York. © Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin

CHARLES WHITE (American, 1918–1979), “General Moses (Harriet Tubman),” 1965 (ink on paper, 47 × 68 inches, 119.4 × 172.7 cm). | Private collection. © The Charles White Archives. Photo courtesy Swann Auction Galleries

“Concepts and Intuitions” opens Oct. 7 at the Hammer Museum, the same day a historic overview of Charles White opens at MoMA. “Charles White: A Retrospective,” examines for the first time in three decades the full arc of the artist’s career—from his early years in Chicago to his New York period, and finally his tenure in Los Angeles. The exhibition spans the 1930s through White’s death in 1979 at age 61.

Couched in expressions of dignity, White’s powerful images of African Americans bear a distinct style developed over time. “[A]rt must be an integral part of the struggle. It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. It must adapt itself to human needs. It must ally itself with the forces of liberation,” the artist said in a 1978 interview, a year before he died. “The fact is, artists have always been propagandists. I have no use for artists who try to divorce themselves from the struggle.”

“[A]rt must be an integral part of the struggle. It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. It must adapt itself to human needs.” — Charles White

Following its debut at the Art Institute of Chicago, where it was on view through Labor Day weekend, “Charles White: A Retrospective” will present more than 100 works at MoMA—paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, illustrated books, and record covers, as well as archival materials. Next year, the exhibition travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it opens Feb. 17, 2019.

CHARLES WHITE (American, 1918–1979), “Sound of Silence,” 1978 (printed by David Panosh, Published by Hand Graphics, Ltd. Color lithograph on paper, 25 1/8 × 35 5/16 inches / 63.8 × 89.7 cm). | The Art Institute of Chicago. Margaret Fisher Fund. © 1978 The Charles White Archives

HOWARDENA PINDELL (American), “Untitled #20 (Dutch Wives Circled and Squared),” 1978 (mixed media on canvas). | MCA Chicago, Gift of Albert A. Robin by exchange

MEANWHILE, “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen” (Aug. 25-Nov. 25, 2018) opened recently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. Howard Pindell is a trailblazer. She was the first black woman to earn an MFA from Yale University (1967). Shortly thereafter, she was hired at MoMA where she was the first black female curator.

Pindell’s five-decade practice explores the intersection of art and activism. The first major survey of the New York artist’s career, “What Remains to be Seen” presents paintings, works on paper, and video art—early figurative works, abstract and conceptual works, and personal and political art that emerged after a 1979 car accident that nearly took her life. Both her early and more recent work are particularly relevant and attuned to the current political climate.

“I think the thing I keep saying is true: Howardena’s work has not changed. The world has just caught up with her. …I think we are now in a time and a place where we are eager to hear what she has to say,” Valerie Cassel Oliver, co-curator of the exhibition and VMFA’s curator of modern and contemporary Art, recently said.

“There is an area in the exhibition that focuses on her work in activism, and it moves from inequities in the real estate market, which we are dealing with still, major cities especially. She’s dealing with issues of police brutality, which still exist; profiling, which still exists. It’s the unfortunate nature of things—the suppression of women and women’s voices still exists.”

“What Remains to be Seen is co-curated by Naomi Beckwith, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where the exhibition opened earlier this year. Following its presentation at VMFA, the Pindell retrospective will be on view at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Weltham, Mass., in January 2019. CT

TOP IMAGE: ADRIAN PIPER, “Everything #2.8,” 2003 (photocopied photograph on graph paper, sanded with sandpaper, overprinted with inkjet text, 8.5″ x 11″ (21.6 x 27.9 cm). | Private Collection. © Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin

HOWARDENA PINDELL (American), “Untitled #5B (Krakatoa),” 2007 (mixed media on paper collage). | Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Each artist’s career-spanning survey has been documented with must-read exhibition catalogs. Three new publications coincide with Adrian Piper’s retrospective. The exhibition catalog “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions 1965–2016” documents the exhibition with images of more than 280 works and writings by curators, scholars and the artist herself. “Adrian Piper: A Reader” is a collection of new critical essays by established and emerging scholars that address unaddressed or under-explored themes in Piper’s practice. In “Adrian Piper: Escape to Berlin: A Travel Memoir,” the artist explains why she has been living in Berlin since 2005 after emigrating from the United States. The Museum of Modern Art and Art Institute of Chicago co-published, “Charles White: A Retrospective,” a fully illustrated exhibition catalog to accompany the Charles White retrospective. The book features contributions by the exhibition curators, artist Kerry James Marshall, and scholars Kellie Jones and Deborah Willis. Finally, “Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen” coincides with Howardena Pindell’s five-decade retrospective. The wide-ranging volume documents her work with full-color images, texts from curators Naomi Beckwith, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Lowery Stokes Sims, and artist Charles Gaines, as well as excerpts from the artist’s own writings—”her critique of the art world and her responses to feminism and racial politics.”

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