Saturday, June 22, 2024
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What to See in U.S. Museums This Summer: 15 Solo Exhibitions Featuring Black Artists – Simone Leigh, James Barnor, Ming Smith, Whitfield Lovell, Gary Simmons & More

 

SOME OF THE SUMMER’S BEST U.S. museum exhibitions are on view beyond the art capitals of New York and Los Angeles.

Landmark solo exhibitions of an inter-generational slate of prominent Black artists can be seen in Seattle, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and many cities in between. The first museum survey of photographer Ming Smith is on view in Houston. Fresh from the Venice Biennale, sculptor Simone Leigh’s U.S. touring exhibition launched in Boston. In Chicago, the first career-spanning retrospective of multidisciplinary artist Gary Simmons recently opened. A selection of 15 must-see shows follows:

 


KEHINDE WILEY, “Young Tarentine II (Ndeye Fatou Mbaye)”, 2022 (oil on canvas, 131 7/8 x 300 inches / 335 x 762 cm). Framed: 143 5/16 x 311 x 3 15/16 inches / 364 x 790 x 10 cm). | ©️ 2022 Kehinde Wiley, Courtesy the artist and Templon, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo by Ugo Carmeni

 

Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence @ De Young Museum, San Francisco, Calif. | March 18-Oct. 15, 2023

The latest exhibition of Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) features portraits of fallen figures. “Archeology of Silence” speaks to police murder, systemic violence, and the fraught circumstances under which Black people are made visible. The artist’s new body of work expands upon a series he made 15 years ago. Inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s “The Dead Christ in the Tomb” (1521–1522), Down (2008) is a series of large-scale portraits of young Black men lying in repose. “Archeology of Silence” features 25 new paintings and sculpture with Wiley’s incredibly life-like male and female figures taking on monumental symbolism. The show is making its U.S. debut, after an original presentation at the Venice Biennale in 2022.

 



SIMONE LEIGH, Untitled, 2023 (stoneware, 24 × 11 × 13 inches / 61 × 27.9 × 33 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery, Photo by Timothy Schenck

 

Simone Leigh @ Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in Boston, Mass. | April 6-Sept. 4, 2023

The singular practice of Simone Leigh (b. 1967) centers Black feminist thought and the experiences of Black women. Her sculptures combine the female figure, domestic vessels, and African architectural forms. In 2022, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Leigh was the first Black woman to represent the United States with a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Selections from the landmark presentation are on view in the U.S. for the first time at ICA Boston, along with examples of work in clay, bronze, and video from throughout Leigh’s career. Nearly 30 works dating from 2004 to 2023 are featured.

 


Installation view of “Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew,” MOCA North Miami, 2023. | Photo by Zachery Balber

 

Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew @ Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami in Miami, Fla. | May 10-Oct. 1, 2023

Artist and musician Lonnie Holley (b. 1950) describes his practice as improvisational creativity. “If I Really Knew” is the most expansive exhibition of the Alabama artist’s work to date and his first major show in the South. Repurposing discarded objects and materials, Holley imbues them with beauty and meaning addressing complex themes, from his own biography to the Civil Rights Movement and current climate change issues. About 50 works are on view, including recent works on paper, paintings on vintage quilts, assemblage works, and early “sandstone” sculptures. Holley’s work is presented in conversation with several other Southern artists he has championed over the years.

“My art confronts the past, engages with the present, and inspires change for the future. This exhibition allows me to share my journey and connect with viewers on a meaningful level.” — Lonnie Holley

 


FRANK BOWLING, “Night Journey,” 1969-70 ( acrylic on canvas, 83 3/4 × 72 1/8 inches / 212.7 × 183.2 cm). | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Maddy and Larry Mohr, 2011. © Frank Bowling, all rights reserved. DACS/Armitage, London & ARS, New York 2022. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Frank Bowling: The New York Years 1966–1975 @ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, Calif. | May 20–September 10, 2023

When Guyana-born, British artist Frank Bowling (b. 1934) moved to New York in the mid-1960s, the new art scene broadened his perspective. He connected with a community of Black artists including Jack Whitten, met Jasper Johns, and began a decades-long dialogue with Clement Greenburg. It was also in New York that Bowling transformed his practice. He shifted away from figuration to focus on abstraction, producing Map Paintings and employing an inventive technique pouring paint directly onto his canvases. More than 45 paintings are on view in his first major U.S. museum survey in more than 40 years. A selection of archival materials is featured and a companion gallery showcases fellow artists in Bowling’s nexus and his role as a curator and critic. After opening at Museum of Fine Arts Boston last year, the SFMoMA presentation includes additional works, 11 recent paintings made by Bowling between 2018 and 2022.

 


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, (American, 1945–2017), “Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved Any Black People – Bobby Seale),” detail 2009 (pigment print on paper, 14 x 11 inches). | Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Gift of Susan Hendricks,2017.14.3. © Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy the Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

Barkley L. Hendricks in New London @ Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Conn. | May 26-Sept. 3, 2023

Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and educated at Yale University, but he spent most of his career living and working in New London, Conn. He taught at Connecticut College in New London from 1972 to 2010, when he retired, and continued to live in the town until his death six years ago. With “Barkley L. Hendricks in New London,” his adopted hometown museum is paying tribute to the famous artist it had in its midst. Hendricks was recognized primarily for the striking portraits he began painting in the 1960s and 70s of stylish friends, cool acquaintances, and strangers with a certain something that struck his interest. By the end of his life, Hendricks was internationally known and, in the years since, his acclaim and appreciation for his wider practice have continued to grow. The exhibition features 34 works showcasing the range of his artistic expression, including large-scale portrait paintings, landscape paintings, and 10 photographs Hendricks took in New London that are being shown for the first time.

“The exhibition considers [Barkley] Hendricks’ work from a regional standpoint, exploring the role of place, community, and teaching over the span of his career in Connecticut.” — Curator Tanya Pohrt

 


MING SMITH, “Harlem Gardens (Purple),” 2022 (archival pigment print, 40 x 60 inches). | © Ming Smith, Image and work courtesy Ming Smith Studio

 

Ming Smith: Feeling the Future @ Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in Houston, Texas. | May 26-Oct. 1, 2023

The portraits, figurative street scenes, and abstracted compositions of New York artist Ming Smith (b. 1947) are distinguished by experimental techniques employed with her camera and hand. Working primarily in black-and-white, Smith produces painterly and artfully blurred images using methods such as slow shutter speeds, double exposure, painting, tinting, and collage. “Feeling the Future” is the first museum survey of the artist’s groundbreaking, five-decade career. Showcasing works from the 1970s to the present, the exhibition features early and more recent photography and new experimental film, sound, and installation works.

 


JAMES BARNOR (Ghana, b. 1929), Eva, Barnor’s niece and daughter of J. Peter Doodoo, London, circa 1960-69, printed in 2010-20 (gelatin silver print). | © James Barnor, Courtesy Autograph London

 

James Barnor: Accra/London: A Retrospective @ Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Mich. | May 28-Oct. 15, 2023

A studio portraitist, photojournalist, and Black lifestyle photographer, James Barnor (b. 1929) has been active for more than six decades in Britain and his home country of Ghana. This presentation is the first U.S. retrospective of Barnor. More than 170 photographs dating from the 1950s to 80s are on view. Early in his career, Barnor established Ever Young Studio in Accra, documenting social and political change at its height as independence from Britain neared. He moved to London in 1959, pursuing his education, working with the publication Flamingo, and getting his photographs on the cover of Drum, a South African anti-apartheid magazine. Returning to Ghana in the 1970s, Barnor founded the nation’s first color-processing photo lab. Since 1994, the pivotal photographer has been based in London.

“I am honored the Detroit Institute of Arts chose to spotlight my work, allowing Detroit audiences to receive an opportunity to discover the important years in African history and culture that the photos represent. It is my hope that these images can inspire a new generation of artists.”
— James Barnor

 


FRANK STEWART, “Juneteenth ‘93, 19th of June Celebration, Mexia, Texas,” 1993 (gelatin silver print, 7 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Collection of the artist

 

Frank Stewart’s Nexus: An American Photographer’s Journey, 1960s to the Present @ The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. | June 10-Sept. 3, 2023

Over the course of his dynamic career, Memphis, Tenn.-born, New York-based photographer Frank Stewart (b. 1949) has captured the heart of African American culture across art, food, and music; made portraits of pivotal Black figures; and traveled the globe with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, documenting the band, climate change, and international scenes from China to Ghana. Along the way, Stewart developed his singular artistic eye and mastered a variety of inventive technical methods. More than 100 images in both color and black-and-white, spanning more than half a century are on view. The artist’s first museum retrospective, “Frank Stewart’s Nexus” will travel to two additional venues.

 


Installation view of GARY SIMMONS, “Reflection of a Future Past,” 2006 (pigment and oil on panel, 120 x 480 inches / 304.8 x 1219.2 cm), “Gary Simmons: Public Enemy,” MCA Chicago, Jun 13–Oct 1, 2023. | Work © Gary Simmons. Photo by Shelby Ragsdale, © MCA Chicago

 

Gary Simmons: Public Enemy @ Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Chicago, Ill. | June 13-Oct. 01, 2023

A multidisciplinary artist, Gary Simmons (b. 1964) makes conceptual work that confronts the histories of racism in visual culture across sports, music, Hollywood, literature, art, architecture, and urbanism through installations, paintings, drawings, and his signature mark making, a symbolic process of erasure in which he blurs the lines that compose his images. “Gary Simmons: Public Enemy” is the first career-spanning survey of the artist. The exhibition features about 70 works produced between 1989 and 2023. In December, the show travels to Pérez Art Museum Miami. Born in New York City, Simmons lives in Los Angeles.

 


Installation view of “Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other” at Cranbrook Art Museum, 2023. | Photo by Sarah C. Blanchette

 

Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other @ Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. | June 17-Sept. 24, 2023

“Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other” is a mid-career, traveling survey focused on the fiber artist’s community and participatory projects and includes several activities to engage visitors. Working at the intersection of craft and community, Sonya Clark (b. 1967) explores issues of history, race, and reconciliation. She employs a variety of cultural and symbolic materials in the process, including hair, flags, books, and found fabric. Key featured projects address the politics and artistry of Black hair, origins and hateful history of the Confederate flag, the Underground Railroad, and COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition venue is particularly meaningful as Clark earned an MFA in fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art (1995). Born in Washington, D.C., after spending most of her career in Virginia, Clark is currently based in Amherst, Mass., where she is a full professor of art at her undergraduate alma mater.

The title of Sonya Clark’s exhibition, “We Are Each Other,” is inspired by a Gwendolyn Brooks poem about Paul Robeson (1971), which concludes with the following phrasing: “we are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

 


WHITFIELD LOVELL, “Because I Wanna Fly,” 2021 (Conté on wood with attached found objects, 114 inches in diameter). | © Whitfield Lovell. Photo courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

 

Whitfield Lovell: Passages @ Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va. | June 17-Sept. 10, 2023

Meditations on heritage and history, the multi-faceted installations, Conté drawings, and assemblage works of Whitfield Lovell (b. 1959) shed light on the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people. Lovell explores past lives by pairing portraits with found objects rich with meaning and metaphor. His source images are photographs of anonymous African Americans dating from emancipation to the civil rights era. Born in the Bronx, Lovell continues to live and work in New York. A traveling exhibition, “Passages” is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work to date.

 


WILLIAM EDMONDSON, “Ancient Egyptian Couple (formerly Adam and Eve),” circa 1940. | Courtesy The Museum of Everything, London

 

William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision @ Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pa. | June 25-Sept. 10, 2023

“William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision” provides a rare opportunity to see more than 60 sculptural works drawn from public and private collections. Born in Tennessee, William Edmondson (circa 1874–1951) worked as a hospital orderly in Nashville. The self-taught artist was well into his 50s before he began carving headstones for Black cemeteries, eventually making artistic sculptures—limestone figures, including nurses, angels, teachers, and preachers. In 1937, Edmondson became the first Black artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Barnes Foundation exhibition addresses the stereotypical lens through which Edmondson’s work has been presented by museums over the decades and includes a contribution by movement artist Brendan Fernandes, who choreographed a new work in response to the sculptures.

 

OPENING IN JULY

 


AMOAKO BOAFO, “Abena Boamah,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches). | Courtesy Private Collection and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago and Paris

 

Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks @ Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, Wash. | July 13-Sept. 10, 2023

“Soul of Black Folks” is the first solo museum exhibition of Amoako Boafa (b. 1984). Defined by a powerful message and striking visual language, Boafo’s portraits have gained global recognition. His paintings of friends, family, and an international slate of creatives he admires celebrate Black pride, joy, and beauty through a Black diasporic lens. Ghana-born Boafo, splits his time between Vienna, Austria, and Accra. The traveling exhibition features more than 30 works made between 2016 and 2022.

“This exhibition is a labor of love and a holistic snapshot of how Amoako Boafo sees the world through his artistic practice. All who visit this exhibition—which is anchored by radical care and the celebration of Black life—will be moved and hopefully, see a little bit of their humanity embedded within the paintings in this show.” — Guest Curator Larry Ossei-Mensah

 


CHAKAIA BOOKER (American, born 1953), “Empty Seat,” 2006 (rubber tires and wood, 72 x 188 x 24 inches, three panels). | Courtesy the artist. © Chakaia Booker and Courtesy of the David Nolan Gallery. Photo by Chris Lunardi

 

Chakaia Booker: Surface Pressure @ Sarasota Art Museum, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Fla. | July 16-Oct. 29, 2023

Multimedia artist Chakaia Booker (1953) is renowned for her complex sculptural works composed of recycled tires. This exhibition will explore her work with a range of materials, including rubber, wood, steel, and paper. Whether expressing herself through sculpture, painting, or printmaking, Booker imbues each of her pieces “with a sense of energy, drama, and tactility.” The show’s title references her creative process and the tension, force, and manipulation it requires. Booker works in New York and Allentown, Pa.

 

OPENING IN AUGUST

 


JAMMIE HOLMES, “I HAVE A DREAM,” 2021 (acrylic and oil petals on canvas). | © Jammie Holmes. Courtesy the artist, Photo by PD Rearick

 

Jammie Holmes: Make the Revolution Irresistible @ Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas. | Aug. 11-Nov. 26, 2023

The first solo museum exhibition of Jammie Holmes (b. 1984) features about 15 paintings exploring notions of masculinity, childhood, faith, and mourning. Born and raised in Thibodaux, La., Holmes lives and works in Dallas, Texas. His figurative images are deeply personal, inspired by his family and Southern hometown. At the same time, they are universal, addressing historic and contemporary themes, including the Civil Rights Movement and more recent issues surrounding race and politics. CT

 

BOOKSHELF
This season’s shows are accompanied by an impressive selection of exhibition catalogs. Forthcoming in September, “Simone Leigh” is the artist’s first major monograph. The Lavishly illustrated catalog documents Leigh’s first museum survey and features nearly 20 contributors. “Gary Simmons: Public Enemy,” the artist’s first comprehensive survey, features two conversations with the artist—one conducted by Thelma Golden, the other by Arthur Jafa—among other text contributions. “Frank Stewart’s Nexus: An American Photographer’s Journey, 1960s to the Present” is the first complete monograph and retrospective of the unique artist who has produced a wide range of images over his longstanding career. “Whitfield Lovell: Passages” is the most comprehensive survey of the artist to date. Several volumes have also been published on the occasion of ongoing traveling exhibitions, including “Frank Bowling’s Americas: New York, 1966–75” and “James Barnor: Accra / London: A Retrospective,” as well as “Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks.” Coming soon, also consider, “Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other,” “William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision” (available now at Barnes Foundation), and “Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence,” another volume exploring the work of the prolific artist. A publication documenting “Jammie Holmes: Make the Revolution Irresistible,” with contributions by María Elena Ortiz, Emory Douglas, and Lauren Cross, is also forthcoming.

 

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