FRANK BOWLING (b. 1934), “Penumbra” (1970) (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 8 X 23 feet). | de Young Musuem, Photo by Gary Sexton

The following review presents a snapshot of recent news in African American art and related black culture:


ACQUISITIONS | The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (which comprise the de Young and Legion of Honor museums) acquired Frank Bowling‘s “Penumbra” (1970), shown above. Part of his “Map” series, the museum said the large-scale painting “evokes the global scale, impact, and complexity of the African Diaspora; thus critiquing a long-reigning world view distorted by imperialism and colonialism.” “Penumbra” is on view in “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963-1983” at the de Young, through March 15, 2020.

APPOINTMENT | It’s 2019 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has hired the first black curator in its 80-year history. The Guggenheim in New York City announced the appointment of Ashley James (at right) on Nov. 14. She began serving as associate curator, contemporary art on Nov. 12. A Ph.D., candidate in English literature, African American studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Yale University, James most recently served as an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she led the institution’s presentation of “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.”

AWARDS & HONORS | In other Guggenheim news, the six finalists for the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize were announced today. Artists Kevin Beasley, Deana Lawson, and Elias Sime made the list, in addition to Nairy Baghramian, Cecilia Vicuña, and Adrián Villar Rojas. Simone Leigh won the prize in 2018.

APPOINTMENT | On Nov. 8, Iniva (London’s Institute of International Visual Arts) announced the appointment of Sepake Angiama as artistic director. An educator and curator, Angiama is co-curator of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial (Sept. 19, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020). She starts at Iniva in January 2020. (h/t Sharon Rodney) Iniva

REPRESENTATION | Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey joined Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. In the Oct. 22 announcement, the gallery noted that Bey is “celebrated for his rich and psychologically compelling portraits” and special series and projects that “connect deeply with the communities he photographs.” His first solo show with Sean Kelly is scheduled for winter 2020.

REPRESENTATION | Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York announced its representation of multidisciplinary artist Allison Janae Hamilton on Nov. 13. Describing her work, the gallery said Hamilton “engages with the histories, mythologies, and physical transformations of land, especially in the American South, to examine some of the most pressing socio-economic and political issues of the day.” A 2018-19 Studio Museum in Harlem artist-in-residence, Hamilton lives and works in New York City. She is participating in an Art Basel Miami Beach talk on Dec. 7. Her first solo exhibition with Marianne Boesky will be presented fall 2020 in Chelsea.

AWARDS & HONORS | Ivory Coast photographer Joana Choumali (at left) won the 2019 Prix Pictet. She is the first African artist to receive the global photography award focused on the environment and sustainability issues. Responding to the theme of “hope,” Choumali was recognized for her series of embroidered photographs titled “Ça va aller (it will be ok).” She captured the images in the wake of the 2016 terrorist attacks in Grand Bassam, a town in southeastern Ivory Coast near Abidjan. (View the portfolio Choumali submitted for the prize.) The announcement of the 100,000 CHF prize (about $101,000) was made Nov. 13 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Choumali was selected from a shortlist of 12 artists for the prestigious prize founded by the Pictet Group, a Swiss-based asset management company. Kofi Annan is honorary president of the Prix Pictet. The Guardian

“This work is a way to address the way Ivorian people deal with trauma and mental health. Each stitch was a way to recover, to lay down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. Adding embroidery on these street photographs was an act of channelling hope and resilience.”
— Photographer Joana Choumali

CONVERSATION | Celebrating the Yale School of Art’s 150th year, artist and poet Barbara Chase-Riboud will be in conversation with author Claudia Rankine and Dean Marta Kuzma on Nov. 21. Yale describes the event as a “historic dialogue between its first woman dean, its first known African-American woman graduate, and an acclaimed poet, essayist and scholar at Yale who can speak to the social and cultural criticisms Chase-Riboud addresses through her work.” Yale School of Art

APPOINTMENT | Artist and curator Jova Lynne (at right) is the new Susanne Feld Hilberry Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). The museum made the announcement Nov. 18. Lynne has been serving as a Ford Curatorial Fellow at MOCAD. She begins her new position Feb. 1, 2020.

ACQUISITIONS | Four museums are latest on a broad list of institutions to enter into gift/purchase agreements with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation to acquire works by African American artists from the South. Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, N.C., acquired four works by Ralph Griffin, Aaron Jesse, Joe Minter, and a quilt by Amelia Bennett. The Baltimore Museum of Art added 21 works to its collection by artists including Purvis Young, Mary T. Smith, and Lucy T. Pettway. Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington in Seattle acquired “Housetop,” a quilt by Mary Lee Bennett, which will be shown on view in fall 2020. Ten works by Gee’s Bend quilters, the Dial family, and a sculpture by Leroy Almon have been brought into the collection of Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art and will be on view in an April 2020 exhibition. The Atlanta foundation made the announcement Nov. 15.

ACQUISITIONS | Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington in Seattle announced today a gift of 51 works of art from Seattle philanthropists and contemporary art collectors John and Shari Behnke. The donation includes works in a variety of mediums by 44 artists, David Hartt and Jennie C. Jones among them, from 12 countries.

CONVERSATION | On Nov. 23 at Dia: Beacon, curator Jessica Bell Brown (recently hired at the Baltimore Museum of Art) and Brooklyn-based artist Eric N. Mack will be talking about Sam Gilliam, who exhibition of works from the 1960s and 70s is on long-term view at the museum in Beacon, New York. Dia:Beacon

CONVERSATION | During Art Basel Miami Beach, artist Kehinde Wiley and art collector and music producer Kasseem Dean, who is also known as “Swizz Beatz,” are coming together for a Creative Minds Talk on Dec. 2 at New World Center in Miami. After a cocktail reception the longtime friends and prominent art world figures will discuss activism, philanthropy, and creating opportunities for emerging artists. Proceeds from tickets to the conversation and VIP party that follows benefit Black Rock, Wiley’s artist residency program in Dakar, Senegal. Tickets Required

ACQUISITIONS | On Nov. 13, the Whitney Museum of American Art announced the acquisition of 250 works of art, including numerous works by African American artists. New works brought into the museum’s collection since April, include “Without Feather Boa” (1965) by Emma Amos; “Run away with me” (2019) by Jonathan Lyndon Chase; “Half Mast” (2018) by Derek Fordjour; “Fuck Bruce Nauman” (2009-2019) by Ralph Lemon, “Hard Pressed” (2017) by Christina Quarles; “Darkroom Mirror Portrait (_1000510)” (2018), an inkjet print by Paul Mpagi Sepuya and A.L. Steiner; 48 chromogenic prints in six groupings from Lorraine O’Grady‘s “Rivers, First Draft” series (1982, printed in 2015); and works by Tony Cokes, EJ Hill, Kahlil Robert Irving, Hank Willis Thomas, and John Wilson (1922-2015). The additions to the collection feature 88 works by 40 artists who participated in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Works from the biennial include four photographs by John Edmonds, “Tête d’Homme” (2018), shown above left, and “The Villain” (2018), among them, that “challenge the art historical canon while simultaneously interrogating and celebrating Black identity.” “Uh Oh, Look Who Got Wet” (2019), a large-scale painting by Janiva Ellis; “Maria-Maria” (2019) and “Centinelas (Sentinels)” (2013) by Daniel Lind-Ramos; “A Lesson in Longing (2019) and “The Body Has Memory” (2018), paintings by Jennifer Packer; 19 works from “No Humans Involved: After Sylvia Wynter” (2019), Alexandra Bell‘s multi-part series (20 were displayed in the biennial) challenging, analyzing, and reframing newspaper accounts about the five young men accused in the 1989 Central Park rape case; and 10 works by Martine Syms; along with works by Todd Gray, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Simone Leigh, Tomashi Jackson, Steffani Jemison, and Walter Price. Besides Amos, Thomas, Jemison, Leigh, Sepuya, and Price, the artists are represented in the collection for the first time.See Full List and Biennial Acquisitions

ACQUISITIONS | After outlining 2020 exhibition programming focused solely on women artists, the Baltimore Museum of Art announced on Nov. 13 that all of its acquisitions next year, whether by gift or purchase, will be artworks made by women. Baltimore Sun

“You don’t just purchase one painting by a female artist of color and hang it on the wall next to a painting by Mark Rothko. To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”
— Baltimore Museum of Art Director Christoper Bedford


AWARDS & HONORS | The inaugural Time 100 Next list includes Los Angeles-based painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Brooklyn photographer John Edmonds. Time

MUSEUM | The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art opened Nov. 7 and is the first on-campus museum at Portland State University in Oregon. The debut exhibition, presenting works from the Schnitzer collection, features “Mother Nature” (1983), a painting by Robert Colescott displayed at the entrance to the show and “Haircut” (1989), another Colescott painting, is also featured. An Oregon developer, Jordan D. Schnitzer is president of Harsch Investment Properties. According to the PSU Vanguard, the student-run newspaper, Colescott taught at PSU from 1957-66 and was a personal friend of the Schnitzer family. Works by Willie Cole, Ellen Gallagher, Vanessa German, Kerry James Marshall, and Kara Walker are also among the works on view. Two other museums are named for Schnitzer at the University of Oregon in Eugene and Washington State University in Pullman. The Colescott traveling retrospective “Art & Race Matters” is currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati. Oregon Live



The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is hiring an assistant curator of contemporary art, focusing on art from 1970 to the present. LACMA’s Jobs page has a description of the position. Apply here

The Department of Art & Design at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., is accepting applications for a full-time tenure-track assistant professor of expanded photography The appointment begins September 2020. Application deadline is Dec. 19, 2019 CT


IMAGES: Top right, Curator Ashley James. | Courtesy Guggenheim Museum; Top left, Photographer Joana Choumali. | © David Levene; Above right, Curator Jova Lynne. | Courtesy MOCAD; Above left, Whitney Acquisitions: JOHN EDMONDS, “Tête d’Homme,” 2018 (archival inkjet print. Sheet (sight): 23 5/8 × 29 9/16 inches / 60 × 75.1 cm). | © John Edmonds. Purchase, with funds from the Henry Nias Foundation


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