“America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York City” (1976) by Ming Smith


JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERY won the 2019 Stand Prize at Frieze New York for a presentation dedicated to pioneering photographer Ming Smith. Black-and-white photographs from the 1970s and 80s, including a self portrait, were displayed gallery-style throughout the booth.

Smith’s subjects included cultural icons such as James Baldwin, Grace Jones, and Gordon Parks; Alvin Ailey’s funeral; street scenes; and fleeting moments. Enhanced with a variety of techniques including hand-painting, collage, and double exposure, her photographs have an ethereal, otherworldly feel.

The presentation was featured in a special section of the art fair recognizing the legacy of the New York gallery Just Above Midtown (JAM), a pivotal experimental space. Jenkins Johnson was one of seven galleries invited to mount a solo show with an artist who, like Smith, had exhibited at JAM during its tenure from 1974-1986.

The tribute at last year’s fair was organized by Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, in collaboration with Linda Goode Bryant, JAM’s founder.

This year differs greatly from last year. Frieze New York 2020 is online only. The art fair usually takes place on Randall’s Island. In the wake of COVID-19, Frieze canceled the event and inaugurated an online viewing room platform, where about 160 galleries from around the world are showcasing artworks from May 8-15 (free registration required for access).

A black-owned gallery with locations in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y., Jenkins Johnson is exhibiting Smith’s work again, this year as part of a group show. The gallery is presenting a selection of 30 works by 10 artists in its online viewing room.

Enhanced with a variety of techniques including hand-painting, collage, and double exposure, Ming Smith’s photographs have an ethereal, otherworldly feel.

$21,000 | MING SMITH, “Self-Portrait,” 1972, collaged circa 1990s, reprinted 2019, painted 2019 (archival pigment print and oil, Edition of 10, each hand-painted and unique, 24 x 18 inches). | © Ming Smith, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


Works by emerging and mid-career artists—Chase Hall, Lavar Munroe, Rashaad Newsome, and Enrico Riley, among others—are featured. Hall, Monroe, and Riley, have recently had exhibitions at the Brooklyn location of Jenkins Johnson.

Well-established artists Wadsworth Jarrell, and his wife, Jae Jarrell, are the veterans in the group. He is a painter and she is a fashion designer and former boutique owner whose one-of-a-kind culturally and politically attuned clothing ensembles are works of art. Along with Smith, the contemporary artists have played important roles in recent art history.

Smith was the first female member of Kamoinge, the Harlem photography collective formed in 1963. The Jarrells are original co-founders of AfriCOBRA. Established in 1968 at the height of the Black Arts Movement, the Chicago-based collective recognized for its vibrant color palette, was founded on the principles of unity and uplift in the black community.

All three artists are represented in the landmark traveling exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” which is on view through July 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, its final destination. (The museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.) Last week, Jae and Wadsworth participated in an artist talk with Jenkins Johnson via Zoom.

The gallery has assembled a diverse group of artists spanning four generations, offering a spectrum of works in a variety of styles. Figuration abounds and abstraction is represented. Mediums include painting, photography, and sculpture, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $300,000.

Thus far, Jenkins Johnson has closed two sales. The gallery reported to Culture Type it had sold “Shadow of Peace” a mixed-media collage by Blessing Ngoobeni for $18,000, and Julian Opie‘s “Walking In The Rain (2015), a set of two silkscreens on paper (London & Seoul) for $98,000. CT


FIND MORE in Jenkins Johnson Gallery’s Frieze New York Viewing Room (free registration required)


TOP IMAGE: $56,000 | MING SMITH, “America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York City,” 1976 (archival pigment print, Edition of 5, 40 x 60 inches). | © Ming Smith, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


UDAPTE (05/14/20): Recent sales information added


$300,000 | WADSWORTH JARRELL, “Juju Man From the Delta,” 1985 (acrylic on canvas, 68 x 90 inches). | © Wadsworth Jarrell, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson


$150,000 | JAE JARRELL, “Gents Great Coat,” 1972 (various suedes, 60 x 21 x 12 inches). | © Jae Jarrell, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$40,000 | ENRICO RILEY, “Celebration after Hard Times,” 2020 (oil and water color on canvas, 70 x 80 inches). | © Enrico Riley, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$40,000 | ENRICO RILEY, “Witness, Looking West, Fabric of America,” 2020 (oil and water color on canvas, 80 x 70 inches). | © Enrico Riley, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$18,000 | BLESSING NGOBENI, “Generational Neglect!,” 2020 (acrylic and collage on canvas, 40 x 54 inches). | © Blessing Ngobeni, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$8,000 | CHASE HALL, “Fisherman’s Son I,” 2018 (acrylic on canvas, 41 x 15 x 21 inches). | © Chase Hall, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$46,000 | LAVAR MUNROE, “Bathwater,” 2020 (dollar bills, staples, blunt, spray paint and acrylic on canvas, 84 x 70 inches). | © Lavar Munroe, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


$80,000 | RASHAAD NEWSOME, “Through the Looking Glass,” 2019 (collage in custom mahogany and resin artist frame with automotive paint, 65 1/8 x 65 1/8 inches). | © Rashaad Newsome, Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery


Long-awaited volumes by Ming Smith and Wadsworth Jarrell are among this year’s most anticipated books about African American art. Jarrell is the author of “AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art toward a School of Thought,” which was just published. The first comprehensive monograph of Smith, documenting three decades of work, is forthcoming from Aperture in September.


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