According to rollingstone.com, an exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of musical legend Aretha Franklin will open this week at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
The estate-approved “Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul”arrives this Tuesday and will exhibit at the Wright Museum until January 21st, 2019. “This is an opportunity for people to come back and engage, reminisce and reflect,” Wright museum board member Kelly Major Greentold the Detroit Free Press. “It’s the beginning of a much longer expression of who Aretha is.”
The exhibit will feature wardrobe, shoes, video displays and photos from Franklin’s decades-long career, including a copy of the first-ever recording Franklin released, a 1956 vinyl of “Never Grow Old” by “Aretha Franklin, Daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin.”
The Charles H. Wright Museum previously hosted Franklin’s public viewing following the Queen of Soul’s death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. The “red, lace-trimmed ruffled suit and crimson satin pumps” that Franklin wore at the public viewing will display in the “Think” exhibit.
Over the exhibit’s four-month tenure at the museum, curators will rotate items in and out of display to “reflect the same ever-changing dynamics that marked the singer’s own life,” the Detroit Free Press writes.
The Franklin estate is also planning a long-term exhibit dedicated to the Queen of Soul housed at an undetermined location in 2020.
Artist Chelle Barbour’s first solo show, You Is Pretty!, at Band of Vices gallery in the West Adams district of L.A. through Oct. 13, is a photo montage series examining portrayals of African-American women in media. And if you look closely at the curator credits, one very famous name jumps out: Angela Bassett.
Longtime friend and fan of gallerist Terrell Tilford, Bassett, who serves as co-curator of Barbour’s show, frequented his gallery throughout the aughts when it was called Tilford Art Group. After closing in 2010, he rebranded as Band of Vices in 2015 and reached out to Bassett about playing a larger part. “I’ve been a lover of art for many, many years, so it was just a new venture for me. And when he introduced me to Chelle’s work, I was excited about it as well, about this young artist that I heretofore wasn’t familiar with but found her work to be really strong and really striking in many ways,” Bassett explains.
Barbour’s practice includes painting, digital video, photography, writing and curating. She collaborated on projects with Black Lives Matter at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2016; and has participated in a number of group shows. But to have Bassett play a part in her first solo show is just too much, she quips.
“When I saw her name as a curator, I was like, ‘What?!?” Barbour explains. “I have been a fan of hers for years. I’m pleased that she likes the work, that she’s seen it. Her endorsement just leaves me speechless.”
With You Is Pretty!, Barbour poses questions about agency and beauty by layering visual metaphors over imagery of black women to evoke what writer and essayist Amiri Baraka called Afro-Surrealism. The women in her collages are alluring and confident, the opposite of more common depictions emphasizing a lack of economic value, or worse, irrelevance. By incorporating motifs like butterflies, flower petals and industrial machinery, she conjures archetypes of strength and potential.
“Chelle’s work explores that notion of the other or the alien or the marginalization, but she uses the black woman as her muse,” offers Bassett. “When I, as an artist, look out into the world, I find those voices, whether it be art or music or narration, that celebrate our beauty, our being different, as a strength, as something positive.”
At just 19-years-old, this week, Nigerian-born designer Taofeek Abijako became the youngest designer to present a collection at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Taofeek held a presentation for his brand Head of State+‘s spring/summer 2019 collection, which paid homage to 70s afro-futurism styles and West African youth culture.
Head-of-State+ first caught the eye of the fashion community weeks after its official launch in 2016. According to The New York Times Style Magazine, Japanese luxury retailer United Arrows found his self-produced lookbook on Twitter and began stocking the brand shortly after. The following year The New York Times Style Magazine labeled Head of State+ a “brand to watch”, and sure enough, the industry took notice. At the time, Taofeek was a senior in high school living in his parents Albany, New York home. He had only immigrated from Nigeria just two years prior and had just retired his soccer cleats to focus on fashion completely.
The brand’s latest offering, entitled Genesis, is the fourth collection from Taofeek. Genesis reflects the high-end streetwear aesthetic Taofeek has been exploring since its inception, and featured light trucker jackets, white tailored pants, and fitted knitwear. Speaking to the CFDA Taofeek explained, “Genesis is the translation of Afro-futurism portrayed by the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sun Ra through the lens of West African youth – while at the same time celebrating the vibrancy of West African youth culture in the ‘70s and drawing parallels to modern time. The continuous homage to Fela Kuti is also portrayed.”
Now in its second year of operation, Head of State+’s visions as a brand is beginning to manifest into something that is much bigger than clothing. “I approach Head of State+ as less of a brand and more of a case study,” Taofeek told the CFDA. “It’s me digging into my cultural upbringing while trying to have a firm grasp and understanding of it.” In addition to his cultural advocacy, Taofeek is making a case for youth culture and providing the blueprint for how young designers can bypass the fashion industry’s hierarchy and establish a solid brand with minimal financial backing or formal training.
Largely, Jackson passed me by, except as a kind of background music. The videos came and went on the screen and, as the news stories and TV footage became ever more puzzling and alarming, what interest I might have had in him became increasingly voyeuristic.
And all the while Jackson kept cropping up in places I didn’t expect to find him. My dry cleaner on the Hackney Road dressed like him. Jeff Koons made a giant porcelain sculpture of Jackson and his pet chimp, Bubbles. And here he is in Andy Warhol portraits, and in a huge equestrian portrait by Kehinde Wiley, based on Rubens’ Philip II on Horseback. Jackson is on the cover of Rolling Stone and Ebony and, in a Catherine Opie photograph, framed and smiling on Elizabeth Taylor’s bedside table. He’s a pieta, the Archangel Michael defeating the devil and, in a Mark Flood collage, a four-eyed alien standing next to ET. There are gigantic Michaels, tiny Michaels, badly drawn Michaels. Here he is in a horrible painting by Maggie Hambling that makes you squirm and want to run away. It is the worst thing here.
In Jordan Wolfson’s “Neverland,” Jackson is reduced to a tiny pair of hand-drawn eyes, blinking and swaying in a blank sea of emptiness on a big screen, to a gurgling sound reminiscent of a fish-tank aerator. Globbloboblob goes the sound, replacing whatever music Jackson might be swaying to. In Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom’s PYT, Jackson is reduced to an overlarge pair of penny loafers, held on tiptoe (like his dance move “the freeze”) by a bunch of balloons. David Hammons has Jackson as one of a trio of microphone stands, the others standing for boxer Mike Tyson and basketball player Michael Jordan, in Which Mike Do You Want to Be Like…? The mic stands are too high for anyone to use, an image of unattainable ambitions and public expectations. Continue reading “National Portrait Gallery in London Debuts Michael Jackson-Inspired Art Exhibition “On The Wall””→
Come Friday, we can all watch the seeds of the future, stand-alone Oprah Winfrey Museum be sown.
Opening June 8 and running through June 2019, the “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” exclusive exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will, according to The Washington Post, feature video clips, interview segments, movie costumes, and personal photographs and journals to explore what has influenced Winfrey and how her work has shaped America.
“What’s interesting is the same way America thought about Walter Cronkite — you could trust Walter Cronkite and his opinion — they trust Oprah,” said museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III. “An African American woman becomes the person America turns to.”
Winfrey donated $12 million to the $540 million museum as it was being built, making her its largest individual benefactor (its theater is named in her honor). But her role as benefactor did not influence the exhibition, Bunch said. “We made sure there was a bright line, that this was done by the museum and museum scholars,” he said. “The fundraising was not through Oprah’s people.”
Curators Rhea L. Combs and Kathleen Kendrick worked with Winfrey and her staff on arranging loans for the exhibition and on fact-checking and background information. “In terms of content and narrative and the way the story is told, it’s the museum’s product,” Kendrick said. “The way we approached it was the way we approach all of our exhibitions.”
The exhibit balances Winfrey’s humble personal story with her achievements. “We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes,” Kendrick said.
The first section of the show, which is in the Special Exhibitions gallery, explores Winfrey’s childhood and early career and how the cultural shifts of the 1950s and 1960s informed her worldview.
“Civil rights, the women’s movement, the media and television landscape, she’s at this distinct intersection of all of these dynamic moments,” Combs said. “She becomes someone at the forefront of dealing with ideas, of discussing hot-button topics like racism and sexual orientation.”
The middle section looks at the 25-year run of the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” the highest-rated talk show in U.S. television history. Using artifacts from Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago, where the show was filmed, this section focuses on its evolution, its variety of subject matter and guests, and its reach into social issues such as racism and equality.
“She used television as a social medium, convening conversations and creating these interactive experiences with people,” Kendrick said. “She’s offering lessons for living, social guidance in a way.”
The third section looks at Winfrey’s role as cultural influencer and tastemaker in the movies she has made (“The Color Purple,” “Beloved,” “The Butler”) the books she promoted in her television book club and her philanthropic work.
The timing of the high-profile exhibition was planned to coincide with the last quarter of the African American Museum’s second year, when officials expected a drop in attendance. Instead crowds are regularly at capacity and timed passes to enter are still required. Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the museum has welcomed 3.8 million visitors, making it one of the most popular Washington D.C. attractions.
“I really thought after the first year it’d be business as usual, so at the end of the second year I’d do something to give it visibility,” Bunch said. “I didn’t anticipate we’d have the same crush of crowds.”
Bunch said he hopes the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about what Winfrey has represented over the years.
“There are so many issues, about women, power, media, body image,” he said. “This should be a popular show because of the impact of this person, but it is also a show that allows us to think about what it means that a woman who doesn’t fit the TV look could build a media empire and become an entrepreneur.”
More than half a century after the groundbreaking exhibit “The Negro Woman,” the image announcing the show by the African-American collective Kamoinge still captivates. Taken by Louis Draper, who had a keen sense of light and shadow, the photograph shows an older black woman standing on a busy Harlem street corner. In the crowd, her face is finely in focus. She is tired, gazing off into the distance, as she waits, with serious dignity and grace.
It was an everyday scene that in its own way was extraordinary. Led by the astute chronicler of Harlem life, Roy DeCarava, the show aimed to reclaim the beauty of the African-American woman. Kamoinge’s group exhibition was among the first to carefully and radically picture the black woman’s elegance and pride.
“Nothing like that had been done in the community before,” said Adger Cowans, the president and a co-founder of Kamoinge. “The black woman has been underrepresented. Here we are today and we are still looking at black women negatively. We wanted to show their beauty and power.”
Decades after “The Negro Woman,” that same motivation has inspired Kamoinge’s new exhibit, “Black Women: Power and Grace,” at the National Arts Club in New York from May 28 to June 30. “With this exhibition we are showing our love and appreciation to our mothers, wives and sisters,” said Russell Frederick, a co-organizer of the exhibition and Kamoinge’s vice president. “I think black women, who have mostly been objectified in the media, have actually made a major mark on society that really can’t be quantified but has gone unrecognized.”
The show includes several intimate portraits by Mr. Russell that examine traditional notions of beauty and Anthony Barboza’s images of black models, like a bald and beautiful Pat Evans, that affirm them. Among the show’s earliest works is Mr. Cowan’s “Untitled (Betty Shabazz).” Taken in 1965, the black-and-white picture shows Ms. Shabazz coming out the back of a Harlem church where the funeral service for her husband Malcolm X had been held. In an indelible image of strength and loss, Ms. Shabazz’s face is veiled in black lace as a single tear rolls down her cheek.
“That picture meant something to me because my whole universe stood still,” said Mr. Cowan, 81. “It was very emotional for me, she was as big in my eyes as Malcolm. It was important for people to see this image because this woman carried the weight of the world on her shoulders and you can see it on her face.”
Since 2016, the photo collective, founded in 1963, has made an effort to expand ranks — historically dominated by male photographers — with younger, female artists. The group’s new black female members, including the French-Senegalese portraitist Delphine Diallo, join a small company of women like Ming Smith, the first black woman photographer to have her work collected by the Museum of Modern Art.
“Black Women: Power and Grace” also features other female newcomers. Lola Flash has two pictures that bring visibility to the black lesbian community; a 2010 Delphine Fawundu self portrait, “What Do They Call Me, My Name Is Aunt Sara,” challenges us to rethink the names we call black women; and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn’s images explore spiritual practice in Senegal.
“I’ve been watching Kamoinge for most of my career and I’ve seen its growth,” Ms. Barrayn said. “I always felt being a part of Kamoinge was so far-fetched because there weren’t many women in the group.”
Kamoinge’s mission-oriented pictures are populated with individual narratives that have long come together to shape the complex diversity of black women.
“The challenge is to see her differently,” Mr. Frederick said. “We really embrace today’s black woman, who she is and even those who came before her like Maya Angelou, Maxine Waters and Dionne Warwick, who are all holding hands in Eli Reed’s picture.
“Black women have broken barriers, been torch bearers and pioneers,” Mr. Frederick continued. “And at the same time, they have always looked out for all of us in the neighborhood, taking us to church, making Sunday dinner and always having our back.”
Born in Chicago in 1918, the artist Charles White always received inspiration from the struggles and triumphs of black people—major historical figures like Frederick Douglass as well as ordinary people like his own mother, who worked as a maid her whole life.
It was White’s mother who bought him his first box of paints, when he was 7 years old. He would go on to earn a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, where a major retrospective of his work opens this month.
Among the pieces on display is the 1977 lithograph Love Letter III, which pairs a Madonna-like figure with a motif White often used to represent feminine life-giving and creativity: a conch shell.
According to the Smithsonian Institute, next Tuesday, its National Portrait Gallery will recognize and honor the life of Henrietta Lacks with the installation of a 2017 portrait by Kadir Nelson on the museum’s presentation wall on the first floor. The portrait was jointly acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and will be shared by the two museums. The painting will be on display at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 4.
Lacks, a mother of five, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These “immortal” HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
Considering the history of medical testing on African Americans without their permission, the fate of Lacks raised questions about ethics, privacy and racism. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, addressed those issues and later prompted Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to adapt her story into a theatrical movie that first aired on HBO in 2017.
“It is fitting that Henrietta Lacks be honored at two Smithsonian museums, as each approaches American history from unique and complementary perspectives,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.”
“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum.
Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.
Thousands more visitors gained entry to the popular Smithsonian museum on four Wednesdays last month, pushing officials to extend the program into May. April’s Walk-Up Wednesday crowds were larger than its Saturday crowds, typically the museum’s busiest day, according to Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas.
“Clearly it was successful,” St. Thomas said. “It allowed more visitors to enjoy the museum.”
There were 9,500 visitors on April 4, the middle of the busy Easter week, and about 8,900 the second Wednesday, April 11, St. Thomas said. The last two Wednesdays attracted 8,000 and 7,800 visitors, respectively. Those numbers exceeded visitor tallies on all four Saturdays in April, which averaged 6,825.
Visitor numbers also eclipsed Tuesday totals last month, which ranged from 4,500 and 7,000, St. Thomas said.
Since its opening Sept. 24, 2016, the newest Smithsonian museum has welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors. It has used timed passes to control crowd size and reduce lines. St. Thomas said officials were not yet considering eliminating all passes.
The museum has distributed thousands of free passes on the first Wednesday of each month — on May 2 it will distribute passes for August — but many are not used. About 3,000 visitors on each Wednesday in April had advance passes and were given priority entry, according to St. Thomas. No visitors were turned away.
In addition to advance passes, the museum distributes same-day passes online daily at 6:30 a.m. Walk-up admission is available after 1 p.m. weekdays, if capacity allows.
The cultural impact of Black Panther has continued to increase in magnitude since its Feb. 16 release. Shattering records with each tick of the clock, the Marvel film gained historic steam with praise from moviegoers and positive reviews. Now, while the superhero reel plans to surpass the Titanic, it aims to break yet another record, this time in Saudi Arabia.
According to Variety, Black Panther will premiere on April 18 in the Middle Eastern country, dissolving its 35-year ban on movie theaters. The debut will be accompanied by a gala and take place in the newly-constructed AMC theater, based in Riyadh.
A plan to cease the cinema ban occurred in Dec. 2017, CNN reports. The Saudi Ministry of Culture gave AMC the green light to begin rolling out 30 theaters across the country, possibly projecting a $1 billion revenue stream for Saudi Arabia’s economy.
The billion-dollar movie currently holds the title as the highest-grossing superhero motion picture. Upon its release, director Ryan Coogler wrote an open letter thanking fans for their insurmountable support. “For the people who bought out theaters, who posted on social about how lit the film would be, bragged about our awesome cast, picked out outfits to wear, and who stood in line in theaters all over the world,” he wrote, “all before even seeing the film.”