Installation view of Betye Saar at Museum of Modern Art


FALL IN NEW YORK CITY is always a time of renewal and fresh new perspectives when it comes what’s next and relevant in art. This season there are an exceptional number of opportunities to experience the work of African American artists in museums, galleries, and public spaces. The season began with showings of Fred Wilson’s Chandeliers at Pace Gallery, a survey of Alma Thomas at Mnuchin Gallery, and works by up-and-coming artist Janiva Ellis at 47 Canal.

A range of important presentations continue throughout the season. Galleries are showcasing the latest from the studios of Amy Sherald and Henry Taylor and revisiting important historic artist Roy DeCarava, considering his black-and-white photography in a modern context. Solo exhibitions of Melvin Edwards, Jason Moran, and Bill Traylor are on view. Other exhibitions feature emerging artists such as Chloë Bass, Chase Hall, and Cameron Welch. Also debuting this fall, outdoor sculptures by Wangechi Mutu and Kehinde Wiley are inserting representations of blackness into the public narrative.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) reopened Oct. 21 with expansive new exhibition spaces. “Betye Saar The Legends of Black Girl’s Window” and “member: Pope.L, 1978–2001” are central to MoMA’s new programming, which also includes “Projects 110: Michael Armitage,” a collaboration between MoMA and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Herewith, a look at highlights of the fall exhibition season in New York City:


ALVIN BALTROP, ​”The Piers (Sunbathing platform with Tava mural),” ​n.d.,1975-1986 (silver gelatin print). | The Alvin Baltrop Trust, Third Streaming and Galerie Buchholz

“The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop” @ Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Bronx | Aug. 7, 2019-Feb. 9, 2020

Bronx-born photographer Alvin Baltrop (1948–2004) died at the age of 55, leaving behind an important body of work that went unrecognized in his lifetime. While Baltrop made a living working a variety of jobs, he was committed to documenting New York, particularly the gay community that came together at the abandoned Hudson River piers in the 1970s and 80s. More than 200 photographs are on view along with the artist’s personal archive, shown publicly for the first time. A fully illustrated catalog has been published to accompany the show.


ROY DECARAVA, “Curved branch,” 1994 (silver gelatin print – Print: 11 x 14 inches / 27.9 x 35.6 cm; Framed: 16 3/8 x 20 3/8 inches /41.6 x 51.8 cm). | © The Estate of Roy DeCarava 2019. All Rights Reserved

“Roy DeCarava: Light Break” and “Roy DeCarava: the sound i saw” @ David Zwirner Gallery, New York, N.Y. | Sept. 5-Oct. 26, 2019

David Zwirner gallery is displaying the work of Roy DeCarava for the first time since announcing its representation of the artist’s estate. Curated by Sherry Turner DeCarava, solo exhibitions are on view at two New York locations. In Chelsea, a broad survey of photographs dating from 1948 to 2006 is featured in “Light Break.” Selections from “the sound i saw,” a series of photographs DeCarava made between the 1940s and 1960 exploring the relationship between the visual and the aural, are presented at the Upper East Side space. Two publications accompany the shows: “Light Break,” a new catalog, and an expanded edition of “the sound i saw,” an artist book by DeCarava.


WILLIAM T. WILLIAMS (b.1942), “Four Nights,” 2019 (acrylic on two joined Gessobord panels, 20 x 32 1/4 inches). | © William T. Williams, Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

“William T. Williams: Recent Paintings” @ Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Chelsea | Sep. 6-Nov. 16, 2019

William T. Williams is showing a new body of abstract works—35 paintings that are the first completed at his rural Connecticut studio. Defined by geometric planes, the 465 Series “continues the artist’s consistent exploration of tactility, gesture, color and mark-making.” The high-gloss, cracked-look surfaces give the paintings the look of large ceramic tiles. Originally scheduled to close Nov. 9, the show was extended to Nov. 16.


From left, CAMERON WELCH, “Black Schnabel,” 2019 (oil, acrylic, spray paint, ceramic, glass, collage, and found objects on panel, 60 x 48 inches). © Cameron Welch; and CHASE HALL, “James “JR” Thomas,” 2018 (acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches). © Chase Hall. | via Jenkins Johnson Gallery

“Then & Now: Chase Hall and Cameron Welch” @ Jenkins Johnson Projects, Brooklyn | Sept. 7-Nov. 2, 2019

This show presents paintings by Cameron Welch and Chase Hall, two artists who hail from the Midwest and currently live and work in New York. Indianapolis-born Welch makes mosaic tile collages. Born in St. Paul, Minn., Hall focuses on portraiture. Curated by Antwaun Sargent, the exhibition “examines the ways in which these artists use painting and ready-made sculpture and traditions of craft to deconstruct fixed notions of race and memory.” Originally slated to conclude Oct. 19, the show has been extended to Nov. 2.


Installation view of “Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us,” Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shown, “The Seated II,” 2019 (bronze, 80 3/4 × 31 3/4 × 37 1/4 inches, 877 lbs.). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

“Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us” @ Metropolitan Museum of Art, Upper East Side | Sept. 9-Jan. 12, 2019

For the first time since the Metropolitan Museum of Art was completed in 1902, the four niches featured on its Fifth Avenue facade are being utilized. The museum selected Wangechi Mutu for its inaugural facade commission. Kenyan-born Mutu is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and keeps a studio in Nairobi. Inspired by the caryatid, a motif with roots in both African and Western art, she filled the niches with four female figures, bronze sculptures titled The Seated I, II, III, and IV (2019). The works “engage in a critique of gender and racial politics that is as pointed as it is poetic and fantastic.”


From left, AMY SHERALD, “A single man in possession of a good fortune,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm / 54 x 43 x 2 1/2 inches) and “The girl next door,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm / 54 x 43 x 2 1/2 inches). | © Amy Sherald, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photos by Joseph Hyde

“Amy Sherald: the heart of the matter…” @ Hauser & Wirth Gallery, West 22nd Street, Chelsea | Sept. 10- Oct. 26, 2019

Amy Sherald rejects standard notions of race and representation choosing instead to embrace the broader humanity and complexity of her subjects. For her first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth, Sherald is presenting a new suite of paintings informed by a trio of texts—“Black Interior” by Elizabeth Alexander, Kevin Quashie’s “Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture” and “Salvation: Black People and Love” by bell hooks. The title of the exhibition, “the heart of the matter…” is drawn from the first chapter of hooks’s groundbreaking book. Sherald’s portraits are displayed on the second floor of the gallery with paintings by Ed Clark presented on the ground floor.

ED CLARK, “Untitled,” 2005 (acrylic on canvas, 161.3 x 205.7 x 1.9 cm / 63 1/2 x 81 x 3/4 inches). | © Ed Clark, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by Thomas Barratt

Ed Clark @ Hauser & Wirth Gallery, West 22nd Street, Chelsea | Sept. 10-Oct. 26, 2019

Hauser & Wirth is presenting Ed Clark‘s first exhibition with the gallery since announcing his representation in July. Known for using a broom to push vibrant color across his canvases, Clark’s abstract works are defined by broad strokes and sweeping gestures. He is showing a selection of paintings made since 2000. His paintings are displayed on the ground floor of the gallery with Amy Sherald’s portraits on view upstairs. Clark died Oct. 18.


JASON MORAN, “Slugs’ Saloon,” 2018 (mixed media, sound, 120 x 168 x 171 inches / 304.8 x 426.7 x 434.34 cm). | Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2018. © Jason Moran; Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo by Farzad Owrang

Jason Moran @ Whitney Museum of American Art, Meatpacking District | Sept. 20, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020

Bridging the visual and performing arts, pianist and jazz composer Jason Moran has developed a singular practice defined by experimentation and collaboration. For his first solo museum exhibition he is presenting sculptures, drawings, and variety projects realized with an impressive list of contemporary artists, including Stan Douglas, Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems. The exhibition is organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and curated by Adrienne Edwards with Danielle A. Jackson.


Installation view of “Henry Taylor: NIECE COUSIN KIN LOOK HOW LONG IT’S BEEN,” Blum & Poe, Upper East Side | Photo by Genevieve Hanson

“Henry Taylor: NIECE COUSIN KIN LOOK HOW LONG IT’S BEEN” @ Blum & Poe Gallery, Upper East Side | Sept. 24-Nov. 2, 2019

For his latest exhibition, Los Angeles-based Henry Taylor is presenting new paintings—a variety of portraits and scenes, many made during his recent travels in Senegal. The works on view are “compositions hatched from contemplations on the African diaspora, colonialism, slavery, the odds of diverging routes of struggle, and also on unity and seeing oneself in the face of a stranger.” Well worth the climb, the works are on view on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the gallery’s walk-up building.


CHLOË BASS, Artist Sketch for Wayfinding, 2019. | Courtesy the artist

“Chloë Bass: Wayfinding,” Presented by Studio Museum in Harlem @ St. Nicholas Park, Harlem | Sept. 28, 2019-Sept. 27, 2020

For her first institutional solo exhibition, Chloë Bass raises three central questions: “How much of care is patience? How much of life is coping? How much of love is attention?” The outdoor presentation consists of 24 site-specific works inspired by the look and feel public way-finding signage. Listen to this audio guide to learn more about the sculptural installation.


“Rumors of War” © 2019 Kehinde Wiley. Used by permission. Presented by Times Square Arts in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and Sean Kelly, New York. | Photo by Kylie Corwin for Kehinde Wiley

“Kehinde Wiley: Rumors of War” @ Broadway Plaza, Times Square | Sept. 27-Dec. 1, 2019

Times Square Arts is presenting Kehinde Wiley‘s “Rumors of War” (2019) in Times Square. The artist’s first public monument will be on display on the Broadway Plaza between 46th and 47th Streets. Following the New York installation, the bronze statue, Wiley’s largest work to date, will be moved to Richmond, Va., where it will be installed permanently in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Arthur Ashe Boulevard.


From left, POPE.L, “Reflections of water in test tank in artist’s studio in preparation for Choir,” July 3, 2018. | Courtesy the artist; and POPE.L, “Well (drawing version),” 2015, La Panacée, Montpellier, France. | Courtesy of the Artist, © Pope.L

“Pope.L: Choir” @ Whitney Museum of American Art, Meatpacking District | Oct. 10-February 2020

Chicago-based Pope.L participated in the 2017 Whitney Biennial and won that year’s Bucksbaum Award. Following his project focused on the water crisis in Flint, Mich., he has created a new installation that further explores the use of water. “Choir” is “inspired by the fountain, the public arena, and John Cage’s conception of music and sound.” The show is part of “Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration,” a trio of complementary and coinciding exhibitions organized by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and Public Art Fund (which presented “Conquest,” a collective performance on Sept. 21).


BETYE SAAR, “Black Girl’s Window,” 1969 (Wooden window frame with paint, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, daguerreotype, lenticular print, and plastic figurine, 35 3/4 × 18 × 1 1/2 inches / 90.8 × 45.7 × 3.8 cm). | The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Candace King Weir through The Modern Women’s Fund, and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © 2019 Betye Saar, Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Digital Image © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Photo by Rob Gerhardt

“Betye Saar: The Legends of ‘Black Girl’s Window'” @ Museum of Modern Art, Midtown Manhattan | Oct. 21, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020

MoMA recently acquired more than 40 works by Betye Saar, a cache of prints and “Black Girl’s Window” (1969), an autobiographical assemblage work. This exhibition is the first dedicated to the Los Angeles-based artist’s printmaking. Centering “Black Girl’s Window,” the show “explores the relation between her experimental print practice and the new artistic language debuted in that famous work, tracing themes of family, history, and mysticism, which have been at the core of Saar’s work from its earliest days.”


POPE.L, “The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street,” 2000-09 (performance). | © Pope. L. Courtesy of the artists and Mitchell, Innes & Nash, New York

“member: Pope.L, 1978–2001” @ Museum of Modern Art, Midtown Manhattan | Oct. 21, 2019- Feb. 1, 2020

Pope.L’s singular practice “poses provocative questions about a culture consumed with success yet riven by social, racial, and economic conflict.” This exhibition presents 13 of his career-defining performances dating from 1978 to 2001, including “Times Square Crawl a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece” (1978), “Egg Eating Contest” (1990), “Aunt Jenny Chronicles” (1991), “Tompkins Square Crawl a.k.a. How Much Is That Nigger in the Window” (1991), “ATM Piece” (1996), “Eracism” (2000), and “The Great White Way: 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street” (2001–09). The works will be represented through videos, photographs, ephemera, and live actions. The show is part of “Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration,” a trio of complementary and coinciding exhibitions organized by MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Public Art Fund (which presented “Conquest,” a collective performance on Sept. 21).


MICHAEL ARMITAGE, “Seraph,” 2017 (oil on Lubago bark cloth, 78 3/4 × 59 1/16 inches). | Private Collection. © Michael Armitage, Courtesy the artist and White Cube

“Projects 110: Michael Armitage” @ Museum of Modern Art, Midtown Manhattan | Oct. 21, 2019-Jan. 20, 2020

This focused survey features eight paintings by Michael Armitage, narrative abstractions that he has said explore “parallel cultural histories.” Inspired by European avant-garde artists and East African modernists, his paintings are grounded by his use of lubugo, a Ugandan cloth made from fig-tree bark, which serves as his canvas. The Kenyan-born artist splits his time between Nairobi and London. Organized by the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Thelma Golden, with associate curator Legacy Russell, this exhibition is part of the uptown institution’s ongoing collaboration with MoMA.


From left, RUTH OSSAI, “London,” 2017, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019). | © Ruth Ossai; NADINE IJEWERE, “Untitled,” 2018, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019). | © Nadine Ijewere, for Garage magazine

“The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion” @ Aperture Foundation, Chelsea | Oct. 24-Jan. 18, 2020

Vibrant portraits and beautifully imagined images of blackness have transformed the media landscape. Curated by Antwaun Sargent, this exhibition, and an accompanying catalog, showcase the work of 15 artists working in a variety of contexts, from New York to Lagos and London, including Campbell Addy, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Awol Erizku, Nadine Ijewere, Tyler Mitchell, and Ruth Ossai. Drawing on a nexus of art, fashion, and culture, this new wave of photographers is “reinfusing the contemporary visual vocabulary around beauty and the body with new vitality and substance.”


Installation view of “Melvin Edwards: Painted Sculpture,” Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY, 2019. Shown, “Felton,” 1974 (left) and “Mozambique,” circa 1974 (center). | via Alexander Gray Associaties

“Melvin Edwards: Painted Sculpture” @ Alexander Gray Associates, Chelsea | Oct. 24-Dec. 14, 2019

Centering themes of the African diaspora, the practice of Melvin Edwards explores the history of race, history, and labor. Best known for his ongoing series of Lynch Fragments, raw metal assembled sculptures, the artist began making painted works in 1968. Demonstrating his commitment to formal innovation and the possibilities of color, shape, and graphic curvilinear forms, a selection of historical painted sculpture and works on paper is on view. Exemplifying these qualities, the exhibition includes works such as “Felton” (1974), honoring Edwards’s grandfather James Felton, and “Mozambique” (circa 1974), which pays tribute to the East African nation.

“It is so hard to explain the meaning of the color/form relationship. Once my intuitive sense is in gear I tend to see the possibilities of some color relationships and their implications.” — Melvin Edwards


BILL TRYAYLOR, “Blue Rabbit Running,” 1939-1942 (poster paint and pencil on cardboard, 9 x 11 7/8 inches / 22.9 x 30.2 cm). | via David Zwirner

Bill Traylor @ David Zwirner Gallery, Upper East Side | Oct. 29-Feb. 15, 2020

Bill Traylor (circa 1853–1949) was born into slavery in Alabama and lived through Emancipation, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Traylor was in his late 80s and living on the streets in Montgomery when he began making art around 1939. He drew and painted from memory and observation, making more than 1,000 works in the last decade of his life. David Zwirner is showing works by Traylor from The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation and Family Collections. The selection offers “a comprehensive look at the artist’s distinctive imagery, which mixes subjects and iconography from the American South with a strong formalistic treatment of color, shape, and surface.” According to the gallery, proceeds from the art sales will benefit the Harlem Children’s Zone and the foundation. This exhibition follows “Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor” recently organized by the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.

Meleko Mokgosi: “Pan-African Pulp” and “The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future” @ Jack Shainman Gallery, West 20th and West 24th Streets, Chelsea | Nov. 1-Dec. 21, 2019

On view in both of the gallery’s Chelsea spaces, two exhibitions present recent paintings by Meleko Mokgosi. Sourcing southern African pulp magazines, which were first printing in the 1960s and popularly known photo-novels, “Pan-African Pulp” considers the history of Pan-Africanism. The concurrent show references a text by Karl Marx and “argues both for a disavowal of past grand narratives as well as the recuperation of non-Western forms of knowledge that were not privileged to coexist with conventional or established discursive frameworks.” Mokgosi also has a coinciding presentation at The School in Kinderhook, Jack Shainman’s upstate New York space (Oct. 26, 2019-Spring 2020).


Still from RASHID JOHNSON, “The Hikers” (16 mm film). | via Hauser & Wirth

“Rashid Johnson: The Hikers” @ Hauser & Wirth, Chelsea | Nov. 12, 2019-Jan. 11, 2020

This show of recent works will present paintings, sculpture, and a new 10 mm film, that further explore Rashid Johnson‘s ongoing interest in anxiety and escapism. Among the works on view, “The Hikers” is a ballet by the artist that was shot on a mountainside in Aspen, Colo. CT


TOP IMAGE: Installation view of “Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, N.Y., Oct. 21, 2019-Jan.4, 2020. | © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp


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