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Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem

The Museum of the African Diaspora

January 15 – April 14, 2019

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, installation view, The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco (2019)

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, installation view, The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco (2019)

Press Release

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem
January 15 – April 14, 2019
The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA

The institution's press release follows: 

Museum of the African Diaspora is the inaugural venue for Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem, a major traveling exhibition created by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem. Black Refractions surveys close to a century of creative achievements by artists of African descent and is the first traveling exhibition in twenty-five years to reveal the breadth and expansive growth of the Studio Museum’s permanent collection. MoAD’s showing of the exhibition includes over sixty works by over fifty artists across all media dating from the 1920s to the present.

“The Studio Museum in Harlem is a sanctuary, foundation, and steward for artists of African descent around the world,” said Emily Kuhlmann, Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at MoAD. “The work that we do at MoAD is inspired and upheld by the legacy of the Studio Museum, and we are so honored to be able to share this work with our audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The landmark exhibition explores the vital contributions of artists of African descent, proposing a plurality of narratives of black artistic production and multiple approaches to understanding these works. Such an ambitious, multifaceted project is uniquely possible through the use of the Studio Museum’s collection. Through its pioneering exhibitions, public programs, artist residencies, and bold acquisitions, The Studio Museum in Harlem has served as a nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally, and internationally since its founding in 1968.

Through its groundbreaking Artist-in-Residence program, the Studio Museum has supported many distinguished artists at decisive stages in their careers. The exhibition includes artworks by renowned alumni of the residency program such as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Chakaia Booker, David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley. Black Refractions also presents iconic works by artists Beauford Delaney, Barkley Hendricks, Alma Thomas, and James VanDerZee, among others.

The traveling exhibition is an important initiative created to share The Studio Museum in Harlem’s collection with audiences throughout the country during the closure of its galleries, as the Museum prepares for the construction of its new home, designed by Adjaye Associates in collaboration with Cooper Robertson. MoAD is pleased to be the first venue on the exhibition’s national tour that includes Gibbes Museum of Art (SC), Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (MI), Smith College Museum of Art (MA), Frye Art Museum (WA), and Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UT).

“We are delighted to share the incomparable collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem with audiences across the nation,” said Pauline Willis, Director and CEO of the American Federation of Arts. “Black Refractions highlights historically significant pieces alongside works by some of the most critically important artists in the field today. The AFA is honored to travel this exhibition and spark dialogue around the artistic contributions by artists of the African diaspora.”

“Over the past fifty years, The Studio Museum in Harlem has played a catalytic role across the United States and the world in advancing the work of visual artists of African descent,” said Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum. “Now, we are thrilled to collaborate with AFA in sharing works from our collection during an historic moment in the life of the Museum. Though the doors of our former building may be closed, through Black Refractions we are able to carry our mission to new audiences, maintaining ourselves as a point of contact between artists of African descent and people across the country.”

“Through our collaboration with AFA and these important institutions, we are able to explore the Studio Museum’s collection in new ways, while continuing to generate interest and scholarship around the work of artists of African descent,” said Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection at the Studio Museum. “Black Refractions deepens our ability to share works and engage with new audiences in new environments, providing additional contexts in which we can understand the powerful works in our collection.”