Tag: The Whitney Museum of American Art

The Art of Being Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Thelma Golden. (Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
Thelma Golden. (Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

If Thelma Golden didn’t exist, you would want to invent her. As director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Golden brings her unique passion, commitment, style and laser-focus to every project she touches.

Being so good at what one does almost always stems from true love, and Golden has always been smitten with art. “When I was about 10 years old, a family friend gave my brother and I the board game Masterpiece, which involved figuring out who had stolen a great work of art,” the Queens-born Golden told theGrio. “The game included cards that represented the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and those deeply engaged me in the idea of a museum.”

However, it was her elementary teacher, Lucille Buck, who really brought her into the study of art history. “Mrs. Buck was an art aficionado and felt strongly that we should not only visit museums, but also learn about the art, artists and artworks we were going to see before our visits. She began my lifelong love of learning about art.”

Golden takes the art world by storm

Armed with a B.A. in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College, Golden actually started her career at the Studio Museum in 1987, prior to joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. She spent ten years at the Whitney. Her first big exhibition as curator was the 1993 Whitney Biennial (always a provocative seasonal show), but she really made her mark in 1994 when she organized the controversial exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art.

The show ruffled the feathers of black and white viewers — and critics — alike, but opened up new dialogues. Golden says that in many ways, it was her dream show. “By having been fortunate enough to do that so early on in my career, it has really freed me to be truly curatorially curious. I had the great advantage to make an exhibition so wholly influential to my thinking and the ideas that I was engaged with that it has let me, in the intervening twenty years, follow my mind and my heart around the art and artists that I love.”

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The Whitney Museum of American Art Presents ‘Blues for Smoke,’ a Look at Blues, Jazz and American History

Charlie Parker

Beauford Delaney
Portrait of Charlie Parker, 1968, Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

The Whitney Museum of American Art exhibit, “Blues for Smoke,” features an exciting array of works by a wide range of contemporary black artists. But it offers so much more. A journey back in time, the combination of works, inspired by African-American music, slips you, with a heady mix of anticipation and foreboding, into a dark, back alley jazz club that would be easily at home in the ruins of Potsdam, Berlin, or along the steamy backwater canals of New Orleans. The mood of the show captures the feeling of folks gathered at smatterings of café tables as you enter, where you sit and listen to live jazz vocals in an atmosphere tinged with the bite of a gin cocktail and the halo of cigarette smoke.

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Former Lover Reveals Wealth of Unseen Works by Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat's 'Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)'
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)’ painting estimated at 7-9 million GBP is displayed at Christie’s in February in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? More to the point, is a sound only a sound if someone hears it? Without delving too deeply into the metaphysics, this riddle offers an imperfect analogy for the philosophical conundrum more relevant here, namely – is art only art if someone sees it?  TheGrio interviewed Alexis Adler, a New York University embryologist and former romantic companion of iconic Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, these and other tacit questions about how we evaluate, share and make meaning of art played mysteriously in the background.

Adler, who lived with Basquiat before he was famous, recently revealed plans to share a previously unseen, thirty-year-old collection of art works and ephemera from the early career of the tragic and prolific creator. Produced during their relationship in an East Village apartment — some pieces on the apartment — these pieces have never been seen by the art world or the public.

“This is allowing the people who knew Jean to tell the world more about him, who he was, how I knew him, his warmth and interest as a person,” Adler told theGrio about her plans. “There is a range of work from that time, and it offers a pretty intense snapshot of his beginnings as an artist.”

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