Eighty years ago this month, an anthropologist named Katherine Dunham made her New York City dance debut at the 92nd Street Y. The 28 year old Chicago native choreographed and performed with her own company of dancers as part of “A Negro Dance Evening” organized by fellow dancers Edna Guy and Allison Burroughs. Born in […]
The illustrations for my Brooklyn Rail essay, “The African Roots of Modern Fashion,” garnered me a beautiful two-page spread. Go Afrochic!
My piece, “The African Roots of Modern Fashion,” is a part of the lastest Brooklyn Rail Critics Page on art and fashion edited by Alexandra Schwartz. It provides some insight into my current research. Pleased to be in the company of Valerie Steele, Juliet Bellow, Rhonda Garelick, and Saya Woolfalk!
I offer up another Afrochic tidbit in celebration: Carl Van Vechten’s 1934 portrait of socialite Emilie Grigsby. The leopard couture gown she is wearing is now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum:
by Jendella Benson Deciding that it is never too early to take the task of cultural reproduction seriously (see David Osa Amadasun’s article, “‘Black people don’t go to galleries’ – The reproduction of taste and cultural values”), I took my fourteen month old son to the National Portrait Gallery one brisk November afternoon. The exhibition […]
This post on Media Diversified echoes some recent discussion about the enduring perception that museums are not meant for people of color, who have been historically unwelcome and underrepresented in their collections.
I remember my experience attending museums as black child growing up in post-de-Segregation era Washington, DC differently. Maybe it was a Chocolate City thang, maybe it was that both my parents had advanced degrees, maybe it was that museums were being pressured to abandon exclusionary practices both official and de facto that a decade earlier would have certainly made the climate different, but as a frequent museum-goer I felt that those spaces belonged to me. Moreover, I felt just at home at the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery as I did at the National Museum of African Art (in its previous incarnation at the Frederick Douglass House before its move to the Mall).
Fortunately, I only learned later that most people like me perceived museums as antithetical to them and it is a shame that this belief persists. Was my sense of entitlement to the works of art that I saw regardless of whether they were by El Greco, an Aztec, a French Impressionist, an African, or by Bearden, due to whatever unique thing that prompted me to become an art historian or was it because an open door policy works?
Check out this exhibition Let Us March On: Lee Friedlander and the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Yale University Art Gallery curated by my former student, La Tanya Autry.
The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, a virtually forgotten civil rights gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 17, 1957, was photographed by Lee Friendlander.
This look back can hopefully provide inspiration for our trying times…
Having spent several summers in Accra, I was delighted to learn about the incredible photographer, James Barnor, who operated the Ever Young studio in Jamestown. Autograph mounted an exhibition of his work: http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/james-barnor-ever-young and an accompanying monograph has been published of his work. He has visited the US for the first time and spoke at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
The Chinese-American star, Anna May Wong, regularly appeared in films in roles that were non-Asian but always racialized. I am currently obsessed with how often imagery linked her with blackness, as in this Paramount Studio photograph by Eugene Robert Richee:
The Museum’s New York World’s Fair collections continue to be a major resource for researchers all over the globe, and past research inquiries span a broad range of subjects, including: small format cinema technology, Cleveland artists who exhibited at the 1939 American Art building, and the Fair’s poetry contest. The Museum first shared information about these collections in January 2013, shortly after learning we had received funding from Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to embark upon a collaborative 18-month project with the Queens Museum of Art to make our collections from both the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs more accessible as a result of a generous grant from the Council on Library and…
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