THE YEAR AHEAD begins and ends with major traveling exhibitions, each presenting nearly a century of works by African American artists. The January debut of “Black Refractions: Highlights From the Studio Museum in Harlem” at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco kicks off a tour of six venues.

Scheduled for seven stops, “Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection” continues to tour the United States. Currently on view at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, the exhibition opens in late September at the Baltimore Museum of Art where a markedly more expansive version of the show will be presented.

In the intervening months, Tate Britain is mounting the first-ever career spanning exhibition of Frank Bowling. Jordan Casteel’s first major solo museum show will be on view at the Denver Art Museum, her hometown museum. Another first, a comprehensive retrospective of Julie Mehretu is opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this fall.

In May, a massive nearly 500-page volume documenting art by black artists of African descent in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art is due to be published. Meanwhile, expectations are high for Martin Puryear who is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion.

A fascinating slate of important books, exhibitions, and gatherings are on the horizon this year. In chronological order, here is what to look forward to in African American art in 2019:


CHARLES WHITE, Installation view of “Studies for Mary McLeod Bethune Mural (Seated Child with Book, Guitar Player, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Seated Woman),” 1977-1978. | © Charles White Archive. Courtesy David Zwirner

EXHIBITION: Charles White: Monumental Practice and Selected Works @ David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. | Jan. 8-Feb. 16, 2019

Following Charles White‘s retrospective at MoMA, the gallery is presenting four large-scale drawings that served as studies for the figures in a monumental painting dedicated to Mary McLeod Bethune that emphasized the importance of learning and education. In 1976, White was commissioned by the city of Los Angeles to create the mural for the Exposition Park public library. In addition, ephemera related to the mural project will be on display and a selection of 11 earlier works by White—paintings and drawings made between the 1930s and 50s—will be on view. Also of note, the gallery is simultaneously showing “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin,” a group exhibition curated by Hilton Als, at 525/533 West 19th Street (Jan. 10—Feb. 16, 2019).


“Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem,” Edited by Connie H. Choi, with foreword by Pauline Willis, and contributions by Thelma Golden and Kellie Jones (Rizzoli Electa, 232 pages).

BOOK: Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem | Published Jan. 15, 2019

The Studio Museum in Harlem is sending more than 100 artworks from its permanent collection on a national tour. Organized by the American Federation of Arts, the exhibition is traveling to six venues throughout 2019 and 2020, beginning with the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. A broad selection of nearly 80 artists, including many alumni from the museum’s artist-in-residence program, are featured in the show. The works were acquired over the past half century since the museum’s founding. This catalog documents the historic survey and explores the breadth and significance of the museum’s collection. The fully illustrated volume features an essay by Connie H. Choi, curator of the collection, a conversation among Choi, Thelma Golden and Kellie Jones, and text contributions from additional curators.

READ MORE about the Black Refractions exhibition on Culture Type


JOHN WILSON, “Compositional study for The Incident,” 1952 (opaque and transparent watercolor, ink, and graphite, squared for transfer). | Yale University Art Gallery, Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund. © Estate of John Wilson

EXHIBITION: Reckoning with ‘The Incident’: John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural @ Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. | Jan. 25-April 7, 2019

Fascinated with the work of Mexican muralists, Boston artist John Wilson (1922-2015) used a grant from the John Hay Whitney Foundation to study in Mexico from 1950-1956. Wilson painted “The Incident,” a powerful and chilling lynching scene on an exterior wall facing the street, while attending La Esmeralda, the national school of art in Mexico City. Wilson produced a two-part composition depicting an interior with an African American family looking out of the window of their home and an exterior scene of a black man being hung by four figures in Ku Klux Klan robes. The father clutches a rifle, while the mother turns away from the horrific scene embracing a small child. This traveling exhibition presents nearly all of the artist’s known preparatory drawings and studies for the 1952 fresco, which no longer exists. Twenty-three works are featured including a complete compositional study of “The Incident” and a major painting that captures the mother figure. Opening at Grinnell College, the exhibition is traveling to the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, Clark Atlanta University Art Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery.

“The aim of the Mexican muralist movement was to be spokespeople for the common man. They wanted to create works of art expressing the reality of the forgotten ones, revealing their history, their celebrations and struggles. …[Mural painting] is a public thing because it’s available to masses of people. And so, through Mexican art I began to experience a sense of how to depict my reality.” — Artist John Wilson


AMY SHERALD, “she had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 54 ×43 inches). | Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

EXHIBITION: Amy Sherald @ Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta | Jan. 31-May 18, 2019

Known for her imaginative portraits, Amy Sherald is the latest black female artist to get a solo show at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Following Beverly Buchanan, Deborah Roberts, and Zanele Muholi, Sherald is presenting a series of new paintings. Organized by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Spelman is the final venue. An alum of Clark Atlanta University, Sherald took her painting classes at Spelman. The artist’s first-ever major museum exhibition coincides with the release of her first monograph, a brief 36-page volume with text by Erin Christovale.


MARTINE SYMS and PAUL COWAN, “Most Days,” 2014. | Image copyright Martine Syms. Courtesy the artist, Bridget Donahue, NYC, and the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania

EXHIBITION: Colored People Time @ Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia | Feb. 1-Dec. 22, 2019

Over the course of 2019, ICA Philadelphia is confronting a challenging topic and everyday reality of national consequence, the “ways in which the history of slavery and colonialism permeates the present and impacts the future.” The thoughtful and experimental project aims to build new narratives and public discourse around the experiences of black people in America. Organized by Meg Onli, “Colored People Time” will unfold across three consecutive exhibitions featuring contemporary artworks and historic objects. Featured artists include Martine Syms, Kevin Jerome Everson, Aria Dean, Dave McKenzie, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Sable Elyse Smith, Cameron Rowland, and Carolyn Lazard.


JORDAN CASTEEL, “Benyam,” 2018 (oil on canvas; 90 x 78 inches). | The Komal Shah & Gaurav Garg Collection. Image courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York © Jordan Casteel

EXHIBITION: Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze @ Denver Art Museum | Feb. 2-Aug. 18, 2019

Jordan Casteel‘s hometown museum is hosting her first major museum exhibition. The Denver-born artist is presenting nearly 30 paintings produced between 2014 and 2018 at the Denver Art Museum. Now based in Harlem, where she was a 2015-16 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum, Casteel is recognized for her portraits of young men and people she’s drawn to on the neighborhood streets. She is also showing newer paintings featuring images of women, local business owners, cityscapes, and subway scenes.

READ MORE about “Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze” on Culture Type


“Ebony G. Patterson: …While the Dew is Still on the Roses…,” Edited by Maria Eugenia Hidalgo, with contributions from Tobias Ostrander and Olive Senior (Prestel, 120 pages).

BOOK: Ebony G. Patterson: …While the Dew is Still on the Roses | Published Feb. 2, 2019

This is the first publication to document the work of Jamaican-born Ebony G. Patterson, who lives and works in Kingston and Lexington, Ky. Her embellished works—drawings, tapestries, sculpture, and site-specific installations—explore visibility, invisibility and violence in youth culture. The catalog accompanies Patterson’s current exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, which is billed as the “most significant presentation of the artist’s work to date.” For the show, Patterson created an immersive garden environment, referencing both beauty and mourning, that serves as a backdrop for displaying works produced over the past five years.


NARI WARD, “We the People,” 2011 (shoelaces, 96 x 324 inches / 243.8 x 823 cm). | Speed Art Museum, Gift of Speed Contemporary. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul

EXHIBITION: Nari Ward: We The People @ New Museum, New York, N.Y. | Feb. 13-May 26, 2019

The New Museum is hosting the first New York museum survey of Nari Ward. The Jamaican-born, Harlem-based artist works in a variety of mediums exploring the dynamics of race, power, politics, consumerism, immigration, and diasporic identity. The exhibition features 30 early and recent works—sculptures, paintings, videos, and large-scale installations. As the museum notes, “Ward has produced his works by accumulating staggering amounts of humble materials and repurposing them in consistently surprising ways. His approach evokes a variety of folk traditions and creative acts of recycling from Jamaica.” An accompanying catalog featuring an interview with Ward conducted by Lowery Stokes Sims documents the exhibition.


Clockwise, from top left, Artist Kori Newkirk is participating in Frieze Projects; Hamza Walker, executive director of Laxart is serving as curator of Frieze Los Angeles Talks and Music; and artist Sondra Perry is a part of Frieze Talks. | Photos: via Pasadena City College, by Esteban Pulido, and Hubertus Hubermann

ART FAIR: Frieze Los Angeles @ Paramount Pictures Studios | Feb. 15-17, 2019

Frieze is launching in a new city. The inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles will feature several African American artists in key programming. Artists Kori Newkirk and Karon Davis, co-founder of the Underground Museum, are participating in Frieze Projects. Hamza Walker, executive director of Laxart, is curating a series of talks and music initiatives. Lauren Halsey is among a selection of artists that will participate in entertaining musical engagements similar to Name That Tune hosted at Laxart, in advance of Frieze. During the art fair, Frieze Talks will include a conversation between artists Cauleen Smith and Sondra Perry, winner of the 2018 Nam June Paik Award.


Detail of ÉDOUARD MANET, “Olympia,” 1863 (oil on canvas, 51 3/8 x 71 13/16 inches) | Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo by Denise Schmidt © Réunion de Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY

EXHIBITION: Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse @ Musée d’Orsay, Paris | March 26-July 21, 2019

Scant scholarship is dedicated to understanding works in the Western art canon that center black models or depict black figures adjacent to key white subjects. Who are they, why did the artist represent them, and what larger, evolving narrative do the works form? To better understand the depictions, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar Denise Murrell conceived “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today.” The exhibition “explores the changing modes of representation of the black figure as central to the development of modern art” and brings new scholarship to the fore. Traveling to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, an expanded version of the show will be presented under the title “Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse” (Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse). Featured works span three key periods: “the era of abolition (1794-1848); the new painting era up to the Matisse’s discovery of the Harlem Renaissance and the early 20th century avant-garde movement; and the successive generations of post-war and contemporary artists.”


Clockwise, from top left, Nicole Fleetwood is giving the annual Porter Lecture at Howard University’s Porter Colloquium; Artist William T. Williams is receiving a lifetime achievement award; and James Small wills deliver the opening lecture. | Photos: via Porter Colloquium, Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, via Porter Colloquium

SYMPOSIUM: James A. Porter Colloquium, Howard University, Washington, D.C. | April 5-7, 2019

Organized by Howard University’s art department, the annual James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora gathers scholars, artists, and curators for a series of talks, panel discussions, and a benefit gala and awards ceremony. This year’s theme, Critical In/Sight, will explore “how artists and art scholars of the African Diaspora are establishing new frontiers in art criticism as well as socio-cultural critique.” Nicole Fleetwood, a professor of American studies at Rutgers University is delivering the annual Porter Lecture. Artists Anthony Barboza, Sylvia Snowden, and William T. Williams will be recognized with lifetime achievement awards and art historians Margo Natalie Crawford (“Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics”) and Krista Thompson (“Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice”) are receiving book awards. Named for James A. Porter, the Howard University art historian credited with establishing the academic field of African American art history, the colloquium is marking its 30th year. Register here


The team behind Soundtrack of America discusses the inspirations for the project. | Video by The Shed

PERFORMANCE: Soundtrack of America @ The Shed, Hudson Yards, New York, N.Y. | April 5-14, 2019

An architectural gem, The Shed is a brand new arts center located in Hudson Yards that overlooks the High Line. The Shed “commissions original works of art, across all disciplines, for all audiences” and the first-ever presentation is a five-night concert series conceived and directed by artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen, in consultation with Quincy Jones. Soundtrack of America celebrates the “unrivaled impact of African American music on contemporary culture.”


Edited by Sarah Lewis, the “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture magazine (Summer 2016) was produced with two different covers: A color portrait by Awol Erizku, “Untitled (Forces of Nature #1),” 2014; and a black-and-white image of Martin Luther King Jr., with his father, Martin Luther King, and his son, Martin Luther King III, in Atlanta on March 22, 1963, by Richard Avedon

SYMPOSIUM: Vision & Justice Convenine @ Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. | April 25-26, 2019

This gathering of scholars, curators, and artists is inspired by the special Vision & Justice edition of Aperture magazine (Summer 2016), which was guest edited by Harvard art historian Sarah Lewis. Open to the public, the convening will explore “the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice, with a particular focus on the African-American experience” and consider “How has visual representation both limited and liberated our definition of American citizenship and belonging?” Programming includes short presentations, performances, film screenings, and two exhibitions featuring the work of Gordon Parks and Willie Cole. Thus far, 50 participants are slated, including Lewis, David Adjaye, Elizabeth Alexander, Melody C. Barnes, Lawrence D. Bobo, Jelani Cobb, Teju Cole, Kimberly Drew, Ava DuVernay, Cheryl Finley, Nicole R. Fleetwood, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Theaster Gates, Agnes Gund, Brandford Marsalis, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Claudia Rankine, Anna Deavere Smith, Deborah Willis, Hank Willis Thomas, Darren Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Bradford Young, and Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who is delivering a keynote speech.

“How has visual representation both limited and liberated our definition of American citizenship and belonging?”


Franklin Sirmans (left) is organizing a special section at Frieze New York in honor of the legacy of Just Above Midtown Gallery, which was founded 45 years ago by Linda Goode Bryant (right). | Photos by Angel Valentin, Courtesy PAMM; and David Shankbone

ART FAIR: Tribute to Just Above Midtown Gallery @ Frieze New York, Randall’s Island | May 2-5, 2019

Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami is organizing a themed section at Frieze New York paying tribute to Just Above Midtown (JAM), the legendary art gallery founded by Linda Goode Bryant in New York City. From 1974-1986, JAM provided a platform and gathering space for artists of color who were generally ignored by galleries and museums. Alonzo Davis, David Hammons, Norman Lewis, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson are among the artists who showed their work at the black-owned gallery and in subsequent years gained greater critical recognition. The undertaking staked out a critical moment in art history and black enterprise. Working with Bryant, Sirmans will “reimagine” JAM, inviting galleries to mount solo artist presentations.


Martin Puryear’s striking sculptures draw on a range of cultures, histories, and motifs. He is the fourth African American artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, following Robert Colescott (1997), Fred Wilson (2003), and Mark Bradford (2017). | via Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE)

EXHIBITION: Martin Puryear @ U.S. Pavilion, Venice Biennale | May 11-Nov. 24, 2019

Martin Puryear is representing the United States at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The sculptor is presenting a solo exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion, commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy and curated by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and senior curator at the Conservancy. Over the past half century, Puryear has focused on modernist abstract works that examine identity, history, and culture. A master craftsmen, his practice is defined by experimentation with scale, form and materials. Based in the Hudson Valley region of New York, Puryear collaborated previously with the Conservancy on the commission of his monumental sculpture “Big Bling,” which was installed in Madison Square Park in 2016.


“Among Others: Blackness at MoMA,” Edited by Darby English and Charlotte Barat, with contribution by Mabel O. Wilson (Museum of Modern Art, 488 pages).

BOOK: Among Others: Blackness at MoMA | Published May 28, 2019

In 2014, art historian Darby English was recruited by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to serve as a consulting curator focusing on strengthening the museum’s collection and programming in the area of works by black artists. Among his first priorities was an analysis of the museum’s collection and the development of a publication. The latter is coming soon, the “first substantial exploration of MoMA’s uneven historical relationship with black artists, black audiences and the broader subject of racial blackness.” It’s an ambitious nearly 500-page volume illustrating 200 works, each with an accompanying essay. The list of more than 100 who contributed texts is a who’s who of artists and curators in the field. Two major essays contextualize the works and the museum’s record. The first by English and Charlotte Barat examines MoMA’s “encounters with racial blackness since its founding” through its exhibition history and activities during eras of institutional and national protest. The second by Mabel O. Wilson focuses on the museum’s attention to works by black designers and architects. Another volume by English, “To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror,” is forthcoming in March 2019.

The volume is the “first substantial exploration of MoMA’s uneven historical relationship with black artists, black audiences and the broader subject of racial blackness.”


FRANK BOWLING,”Sacha Jason Guyana Dreams,” 1989 (acrylic paint and resin on canvas). | Tate. © Frank Bowling

EXHIBITION: Frank Bowling @ Tate Britain, London | May 31-Aug. 26, 2019

Tate Britain is mounting the first-ever career-spanning exhibition of Frank Bowling, the Guyanese-born artist who splits his time between New York and London. Bowling’s practice is “defined by an integration of autobiography and postcolonial geopolitics into abstract compositions.” Organized chronologically, the exhibition features major bodies of work from the 1960s to the present, including his map paintings, poured paintings, and sculptural paintings evoking riverbeds.


JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart),” 1983 (acrylic and marker on wood, framed 63.5 x 77.5 cm). | Collection of Nina Clemente, New York, Photo by Allison Chipak, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018

EXHIBITION: Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story, Guggenheim Museum, New York, N.Y. | June 21-Nov. 6, 2019

The centerpiece of this exhibition is “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart),” a 1983 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Michael Stewart was an African American artist. Accused of defacing the wall of a subway station with graffiti, he was arrested by a New York City transit officer. About an hour later, Stewart arrived at Bellevue Hospital bruised, bleeding and comatose and died 13 days later. Devastated by the incident, Basquiat made the painting. The exhibition examines Basquiat’s “exploration of Black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular aesthetic language of empowerment.” The scholarship of guest curator Chaédria LaBouvier was the genesis for the exhibition, which also features works by other artists who made works in response to Stewart’s killing, including David Hammons, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Lyle Ashton Harris. In addition, archival material related to Stewart’s death—such as diaries, protest posters, and artwork courtesy of his estate—will be on view.

READ MORE about “Basquiat’s Defacement'” on Culture Type


Betye Saar in her studio, 2015. | Photo by Ashley Walker, Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles

EXHIBITION: Betye Saar: Call and Response @ Los Angeles County Museum of Art | September 2019-February 2020

“Betye Saar: Call and Response” is the first-ever exhibition to focusing on the sketchbooks of Los Angeles-based Betye Saar. A pioneering assemblage artist, her work explores issues of race, gender, spirituality, and history. Over the course of her seven-decade career, Saar has expressed herself and mulled ideas in a series of sketchbooks. The show will examine the relationship between her preliminary drawings and finished artworks. About a dozen of these works will be featured alongside her sketchbooks in the exhibition, which will travel to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

READ MORE about Betye Saar’s recent activities and legacy on Culture Type


KEVIN BEASLEY, “Bronx Fitted,” 2015 (fitted Yankees caps, bandanas, resin, and television mount). | © Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York; photo by Jean Vong

EXHIBITION: Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, Baltimore Museum of Art | Sept. 29, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020

A greatly expanded version of the traveling exhibition “Solidary & Solitary” will be presented at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the fifth stop on the seven-venue tour. Drawing from the Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection, “Solidary & Solitary” narrates a lineage of African American artists through works produced from the 1940s to the present. Emphasizing abstraction, the exhibition features more than a dozen artists spanning four generations, often presenting multiple works by each artist. Organized by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art, the show’s checklist varies somewhat at each location. Last September, Pamela Joyner told Culture Type the show “would double in size” in Baltimore with works from the Joyner/Giuffrida Collection being shown alongside works from the museum’s collection and other private collectors. In a conversation with artist Lorna Simpson published in Architectural Digest this week, she said, “When the show goes to Baltimore, it’s going to be three times the size and will likely take on a different tenor and may even have a different name. At the same time, we’re planning to republish “Four Generations,” which is now virtually sold out! We’ll be expanding and revising it—adding four to six essays and probably 80 new images.”

“When the show goes to Baltimore, it’s going to be three times the size and will likely take on a different tenor and may even have a different name.”
— Collector Pamela Joyner


JULIE MEHRETU, “Epigraph, Damascus,” 2016. | Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Kelvin Davis and Hana Kim through the 2018 Collectors Committee, © Julie Mehretu, Photo by Malcolm Varon

EXHIBITION: Julie Mehretu @ Los Angeles County Museum of Art | Nov. 3, 2019-May 17, 2020

This fall, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art are co-organizing the first-ever comprehensive retrospective of New York-based Julie Mehretu. The show will tour four venues from 2019 to 2021. Recognized for her complex abstract canvases, Mehretu contemplates histories and explores urgent political and social issues, from capitalism, geopolitics, war, and displacement to migration and global uprisings. Co-curated by Christine Y. Kim (LACMA) and Rujeko Hockley (Whitney Museum), the mid-career survey will feature more than 60 works, about 30 large-scale paintings and 32 works on paper (drawings and prints) dating from 1996 to the present. The exhibition is opening at LACMA and will travel to the Whitney Museum in New York and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and conclude at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

READ MORE about Julie Mehretu’s retrospective on Culture Type CT


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