Studio Museum in Harlem Kicks Off Summer Exhibitions

By Jeff Mays on July 19, 2011 1:52pm | Updated on July 19, 2011 6:28pm

Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964
Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964
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Studio Museum in Harlem

HARLEM—The Studio Museum in Harlem is kicking off its summer season by looking back.

The museum's new exhibit, "Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Art Collective," features works from the collective founded by artists such as Romare Bearden, Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff.

Active from 1963 to 1965, the collective sought to explore the role of artists in the civil rights movement that culminated with a big exhibition on Christopher Street in 1965.

"Some of them felt there was no ultimate role for black artists, while others thought it was to be a spokesperson," said Lauren Haynes, assistant curator at the Studio Museum.

Ultimately driven from their Christopher Street studio because of high rent, the collective played an important role in the development of Bearden's now-famed collage style, Haynes said.

Bearden wanted the collective to collaborate on a group project, but there was resistance because members had such different styles. Bearden suggested a collage, which was ultimately rejected but then became his trademark.

"He was thinking about collage at that moment and then started making them," Haynes said.

Also on display is "Evidence of Accumulation," works by three artists-in-residence at the museum. Not linked by any similarity in styles, the exhibition by artists Simone Leigh, Kamau Amu Patton and Paul Mpagi Sepuya explores the "amassing of processes and ideas."

In "Self/Portrait" artist Lyle Ashton Harris took more than 200 very intimate sepia-toned portraits of his subjects' faces and the back of their heads. Using a large Polaroid camera in his SoHo studio, the close-up shots explore "self portraiture, performance and intersecting communities."

Featured in their continuing "Harlem Postcards" series are photos by two high school students. Genesis Valencia's "Hands With a Heart" is a photo of a drummer near the Harlem State Office Building. The picture was part of a process of Valencia overcoming her fear of speaking to live subjects. After approaching the drummer, they spoke for an hour.

"The way he described drumming and his perception of life was beautiful," Valencia said.

Senetchut Floyd's "Faceless" is a photo of wallpaper ads at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Floyd said he passed the wall of ads while visiting his grandparents in Harlem.

"I started to like it," he said of the wall. "Every time I passed it I would write a different story."

In "Faceless," Floyd depicts the faceless ad calling out for people to come and talk with him.

In addition to the current exhibitions, the museum's free Uptown Fridays! events that open the space up to music and drinks will continue through the summer, as well as Target Free Sundays, when admission is free.

The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 W. 125th St.

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