An American Legacy: Art from The Studio Museum in Harlem

Presenting a rich array of art from the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Established eleven years after the museum's founding, the collection now numbers more than 1,500 objects and includes art in all media by artists from around the world.

The Studio Museum was created to present the work of African-Americans and artists of the African Diaspora. When it first opened in 1968, the Museum was housed in a loft space on upper Fifth Avenue. In 1979, it moved to its current location on 125th Street, Harlem's busiest thoroughfare, at the hub of the community's rebirth and redevelopment. The guest curator of the exhibition is Thelma Golden, Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs of the Studio Museum and an internationally known authority on contemporary art.

The exhibition presents the collection in three distinct but interrelated parts. The first is a selection of work from the James VanDerZee archive, which provides not only an amazing range of the legendary photographer's work, but also an unparalleled view of Harlem. VanDerZee was a pioneering African-American photographer who worked from the fabled Harlem Renaissance period in the 1920s through the 1970s. His images are some of the most iconic of Harlem, picturing it as the heart of Black America and capturing its residents as striving and thriving individuals. The Studio Museum is the custodian of the VanDerZee archive, and through the commitment and generosity of his widow, Donna Mussenden VanDerZee, the museum has the unique opportunity of presenting works previously unseen by the public. This selection will enable viewers to understand the historic legacy of self-determination and empowerment that defines Harlem, both in its past and in the present.

The second section of the exhibition presents abstract painting, sculpture and works on paper by such artists as Al Loving, Alma Thomas, Mel Edwards, Norman Lewis and Betye Saar. Ever since The Studio Museum's inaugural exhibition, a presentation of the abstract light and kinetic sculpture of New York-based artist Tom Lloyd, the institution has defined contemporary critical discourse about the notion of "Black" art, and has continued to provide a forum for this dialogue.

The third and final section of the exhibition highlights recent additions to the Studio Museum's collection. Central to the museum's mission is the Artist-in-Residence program, originally called the Studio Program, which provides studio space and financial assistance to emerging black artists. In its long and esteemed history, the program has hosted dozens of artists, such as David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall and Nari Ward. Many of the artists from the studio program are prominently featured in the collection and in this exhibition. Through their work, they continue to debate the essential question of what is Black art, while exploring issues of gender, identity, site and form. They call on a wide range of references and speak to the ongoing transformation of African- American culture.

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