Harlem on my mind (forthcoming essay on Dawoud Bey’s photos of Harlem)

“Harlem: Found Ways” is a new exhibition opening today at The Cooper Gallery at Harvard University that “presents artistic visions and engagements specific to Harlem, New York City, in the last decades.” Check it out if you are in Cambridge this summer!

And, look for an essay by yours truly in the exhibition catalogue reflecting on Dawoud Bey’s two important photographic series Harlem, U.S.A. and Harlem Redux, selections of which are featured in the show. These preview photos are courtesy of Dawoud.

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Puttin’ on the Ritz

Here are clips from the movies Puttin’ on the Ritz (1930) and the “Bojangles in Harlem” number in Swing Time (1935):

L.M. Blumstein Department Store, Harlem, 1886

A fashion relic. I need to check out what the site looks like now.

Man And Women Harlem Style, 1920’s

Sponsored Love: Take Wing And Soar & New Heritage Theatre Group Presents “The Importance Of Being Earnest”

While I am not opposed to the idea of re-incarnating Wilde from a African American perspective, I do find this poster questionable. This imagery is very reminiscent of the caricatured theatrical and entertainment venue ephemera of the interwar period when Harlem was in vogue, but racism and racialism very much alive. I know I suffer from racial paranoia when it comes to visual culture but all too often imagery that is meant to valorize African Americans is too reminiscent of pejorative imagery.

 

The Hobby Horse

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This empty lot at 205 West 136th Street is the site of a former bookstore and cafe that catered to the black avant-garde. I just learned that my great-aunt went there back in the day. So thrilling!

A White Girl Blogs About “Big, Black Thugs” Living In Harlem

The influx of white folks to the new Harlem has led to many a grande folie! Shades of Godmother.