Wall Street Journal

NY Culture
July 12th, 2011
For Its New Season, the Studio Museum in Harlem Pairs Artists in Residence With Established Names
Uptown, Turning Over a New Motif
Pia Catton 

[HARLEM]Lyle Ashton Harris/CRG Gallery, New York

Lyle Ashton Harris’s 2007 ‘Untitled (Face #182 Senam)’ and ‘Untitled (Back #182 Senam)

At the Studio Museum in Harlem, summer marks the culmination of a year of work by the museum’s artists in residence and the introduction of the results to the public. So it’s fitting that among the five exhibitions opening on Thursday will be “Evidence of Accumulation,” which highlights the three artists who have received a working studio and stipend from the 43-year-old uptown institution.

“It’s an opportunity to see what they’ve been working on all year,” said assistant curator Lauren Haynes. “For a lot of artists, it’s their first museum show.”

Estate of Norman Lewis/The Studio Museum in Harlem

Norman Lewis’s ‘Bonfire’ (1962)



But if there is a unifying idea among the 2010-11 artists—Simone Leigh, Kamau Amu Patton and Paul Mpagi Sepuya—it is only their extreme divergence from one another. “When we choose, there is no connecting theme,” Ms. Haynes said. “The process depends on the applicant pool. We don’t say, ‘How is all this going to look together?'”

Ms. Leigh uses ceramic to create abstract forms referencing history and ethnicity; she also collaborated on a video project with artist Liz Magic Laser and opera singer Alicia Hall Moran. Mr. Patton is a multimedia artist who combines sculpture, light and sound. And Mr. Sepuya, a photographer, specializes in intimate portraits of friends and acquaintances taken in his residency studio on the third floor of the museum.

The artists’ work will be up through Oct. 23, as will the museum’s three other summer exhibitions, the most expansive of which is “Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Art Collective.” The show is named after the 1960s visual-art group known as Spiral, which brought together African-American artists exploring the intersection of civil rights, arts and culture. Founding members whose art will be represented in the show include Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, Norman Lewis and Hale Woodruff. A smaller version of the exhibition was created in 2010 by the Birmingham Museum of Art. Four of the 22 pieces in the Studio Museum’s show were displayed in that previous exhibit.

Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh’s ‘Porcelain Roses’ (2011)



“We were able to expand the list of artists,” said Ms. Haynes, adding that many works came from the Studio Museum’s own collection.

Also opening on Thursday will be “Self/Portrait,” a series of large-format Polaroid photographs shot by Lyle Ashton Harris. In the photographs, which feature more than 200 individuals captured over the course of 10 years, sitters are shot facing directly forward and backward so that the viewer sees both the face and the back of the head.

Each year, the summer exhibitions also include work by high-school students participating in the museum’s program “Expanding the Walls: Making Connections to Photography, History and Community.” Two students—Senetchut M. Floyd from the Kamit Preparatory Institute and Genesis Valencia of the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts—were selected to contribute to the recurring Harlem Postcards project for which, three times a year, the museum turns artists’ photographs into postcards that are free to visitors.

“In the summer, we use one of the high school students, but this year they were so good, we used two,” Ms. Haynes said.