Tag: Kara Walker

Playwright Lynn Nottage and Professor George E. Lewis Inducted Into American Academy of Arts and Letters

via jbhe.com

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

George E. Lewis (photo via Macarthur Foundation)

Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members. Among the current African American members are Kwame Anthony Appiah, Rita Dove, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, and Kara Walker.

Lynn Nottage (photo via WYPR)

The American Academy of Arts and Letters recently inducted 12 individuals into the 250-member honorary society. Of the 12 new members, two are African Americans.

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University in New York City. Professor Lewis came to Columbia in 2004, having previously taught at the University of California, San Diego, Mills College in Oakland, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2002. A graduate of Yale University, Professor Lewis studied composition and trombone at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter, is an associate professor in the theatre department at the Columbia School of the Arts. Nottage is the co-founder of the production company, Market Road Films, which has produced projects for HBO and Showtime as well as independent productions. She is a winner of a MacArthur “genius award.” Nottage is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.

Philadelphia Museum of Art to Open “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art” Exhibit in January 2015

The Annunciation, (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner. (Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1899)
The Annunciation, (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner. (Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1899)

In January, the Philadelphia Museum will open “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art,” a sprawling survey of its holdings of works by black artists. Featuring 75 artworks by over 50 artists, the show’s earliest pieces include silhouettes by Moses Williams that date to 1802, pre-Civil War decorative arts by free and enslaved artists, and potter David Drake’s bible-inscribed storage jar sculpture.

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Birds in Flight (1927) by Aaron Douglas (Courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art, © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York)

“Presenting these works together now, we are mindful of the many anniversaries of the civil rights movement that have recently passed or are soon to come, and are thinking equally about the way race remains a key topic of conversation in the United States today—in politics, society, popular culture, and, of course, the arts,” said Philadelphia Museum of Art director Timothy Rub said in a statement. “This is an important moment in which to explore the historic development and continuing growth of the Museum’s collections of African American art.”

A centerpiece of the exhibition is undoubtedly Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1898 painting titled The Annunciationreports the Wall Street Journal. Acquired by the museum in 1899, it was the first piece by an African American artist added to its collection. The show traces black artists through many of the major movements in American art history, from Cubism with Aaron Douglas’s Birds in Flight (1927) to Modernism with works by William Henry Johnson and Elizabeth Catlett. A combination of both can be seen in the figurative painting of Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence.

Other, more contemporary, highlights include Barbara Chase-Riboud’s large-scale bronze and fiber sculpture Malcolm X #3, as well as pieces by Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, and Kara Walker.

“Represent: 200 Years of African American Art” will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art January 10, 2015 though April 5, 2015. (Preview a selection of artworks from the exhibition below.) Continue reading “Philadelphia Museum of Art to Open “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art” Exhibit in January 2015”

Visual Artist Kara Walker Creates Unforgettable Confection at Domino Refinery in NYC

“A Subtlety” by Kara Walker (Credit: Abe Frajndlich for New York Times)

The smell hits you first: sweet but with an acrid edge, like a thousand burned marshmallows. Then you’re struck by the space, five stories high and more than a football field long. The storage shed of the Domino sugar factory, on the East River in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, was built in 1927 to hold mountains of raw sugar due for whitening. The plant was shuttered a decade ago, yet its crumbling walls still drip with molasses.

But head farther in, and that mess gives way to the pristine: Rising to the rafters and stretching 75 feet from paws to rump is a great sphinx, demure as her Egyptian cousin but glowing from a recent sugar coating. It is a sight so unlikely it seems Photoshopped.

Kara Walker, the sphinx’s creator, appears dwarfed by her almost-finished colossus, an ode to the cane fields’ black labor that she has chosen to make grotesquely white. She has titled it “A Subtlety” — after the intricate sugar sculptures that were centerpieces for medieval feasts — even though it is absurdly unsubtle. Its subtitle is “The Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World.”

The work was commissioned by Creative Time, the group known for its public art projects. “This feels like a Cecil B. DeMille set,” said Nato Thompson, Creative Time’s chief curator, gazing up at the result. From May 10 through July 6, on Fridays through Sundays, the public will get to be its cast of thousands.

Ms. Walker is a proudly tall woman — “5-10,” she tells me, correcting my guess of 5 feet 8. For protection from the room’s floating sugar, the artist wears yellow rubber overalls and a blue bandanna with shamrocks. Her face bears an uncanny likeness to her sphinx.

“I just noticed that her nose and profile are me, for sure,” Ms. Walker said. The “just” is hard to believe: In March, when I first visited studio in Manhattan’s garment district, she talked about enlarging the nostrils on an early draft of the head and, maybe unconsciously, pointed to her own nose as she did so.

Doubters — and there are more than a few — might read the sphinx as being all about inflating Ms. Walker’s ego and status. But it could as easily be a sendup of the genius-artist role foisted on Ms. Walker by others. “To joke about it isn’t necessarily to dismiss it,” she said, “but it is to acknowledge the complete folly of that whole notion.”

In the 20 years since her breakout installation at the Drawing Center in New York, when she was only 24, Ms. Walker has become a towering figure herself, an African-American visual artist who has achieved unparalleled global success. Her cut-paper silhouettes and animations, exhibited and owned by museums across the United States and abroad, harness genteel 19th-century imagery to magnify the dysfunctions bred by slavery.

Continue reading “Visual Artist Kara Walker Creates Unforgettable Confection at Domino Refinery in NYC”