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MoMA Coming to Jamaica With Lecture on African-American Art

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | February 1, 2013 5:00pm

QUEENS — This Saturday, Queens residents will get a chance to learn more about African-American artists, dating back to the Harlem Renaissance, whose works are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

A free lecture about these artists will be held at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica, where William Smith from MoMA will present a lecture featuring three generations of African-American artists whose works were made during a tumultuous political era.

“The talk is going to be spanning 60-70 years of arts and looking at the different strategies that African-American artist have used to speak about themselves, their identities, their communities and the African-American experience in general,” Smith said.

Among the artists who Smith will discuss are several who were active during the Harlem Renaissance and the early Civil Rights movement, including Jacob Lawrence, famous for his series about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the industrial North, and Elizabeth Catlett, known for her politically charged prints.

Smith will also discuss work of artists active in the 1950s and 1960s, including Martin Puryear and Romare Bearden, who chronicled African-American life in New York City.

David Hammons, an artist from Los Angeles, who used various experimental techniques — including his famous body prints works — to document social reality in the African-American community in the 1960s, will also be discussed, said Smith.

Hammons' work is part of a current exhibit at MoMA PS1 called “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980.”

Smith's lecture will also discuss contemporary artists, including Kara Walker and Glenn Ligon, and how they “used and adopted strategies from conceptual art as a way of commenting on African-American history,” Smith said.

The lecture is part of a series organized by Queens Library in collaboration with MoMA.

Presentations, which usually discuss the museum's exhibits and various art movements, are meant to reach out to various New York communities, said Kirsten Schroeder, coordinator at Community and Access Programs at MoMA.

Lectures are also meant to encourage participants to visit the museum.

“Everyone attending receives a free family pass to come and visit the museum which is good for up to 5 people,” said Schroeder, adding that the pass can be used for family members and friends.

Saturday's lecture is also part of the Queens Library series of events celebrating Black History Month. Other events in the series include the annual Langston Hughes Celebration, which will be held on Feb. 9, at the Langston Hughes Library, at 100-01 Northern Blvd. and the Black History through Poetry and Quilting event scheduled to be held on Feb. 21, at Hollis Library, at 202-05 Hillside Ave.

The African-American Works in MoMA’s Collection lecture will be held on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at Central Library at 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica.

For more information and complete schedule of events, go to: www.queenslibrary.org.