[This was originally posted on December 20, 2010. I've re-posted with photos kindly provided by The Studio Museum in Harlem.]
Last weekend I made my first trip to the Studio Museum in Harlem. The museum has three great exhibits currently on view that are worth checking out.
First off, in the main gallery is British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Any Number of Preoccupations. Born in London in 1977 of Ghanaian descent, Yiadom-Boakye paints "fictional portraits." The artist "creates characters that have lively back stories; yet she leaves it up to the viewer's imagination to fill in the details of these fictional lives," (from the museum's website). The 24 paintings on view are lush, haunting and mysterious. It's amazing that Yiadom-Boakye's portraits are "fictional" and based on her imagination instead of actual people since the works feel intimate and personal. There really seems to be a relationship between the artist and her subjects based on their expressions, poses, personalities, and realness—a testament to her imagination, skill, and talent. According to the museum's notes, Yiadom-Boakye is also a "prolific writer of fiction, poetry and essays"—which makes me wonder what kinds of rich and detailed stories she'd produce to accompany her compelling portraits, but I guess that would take away from the fun of inventing them ourselves. Learn more about Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and see a slideshow of her work here.
Up on the museum's mezzanine level is Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford's Alphabet. Bradford, known for canvasing his LA neighborhood looking for old advertisements and posters to repurpose for his paintings/collages, has created twenty-six works on paper depicting each letter of the alphabet. The vivid red, white, and blue hued letters look as if they've been dissected with their tiny skeletons exposed and visible. As the museum's notes state, Bradford's "singular talent of investigating language and its meaning is present in this wonderful series," studying the foundation for words and language. Learn more about Alphabet and see six of Bradford's letters here. Also, see my September 2009 post on Mark Bradford's dual show with Kara Walker at Sikkema Jenkins here.
And finally, be sure to head downstairs to check out Dawoud Bey's terrific photographs from his series Harlem, USA. Born in Queens in 1953, Bey became fascinated with Harlem at an early age—it being the neighborhood where his parents met and where he would regularly visit several relatives and friends who called the area home. Bey began taking photographs at the age of sixteen, and from 1975-1979 documented the streets and residents of Harlem in beautiful, black-and-white photos. Though shot in black-and-white, you can practically see the vibrant colors in the clothes his subjects wear or in the surrounding scenery. Harlem exudes as much personality and character in Bey's photographs as his subjects do. Read a statement by Bey and see images here. All three Studio Museum in Harlem exhibits run through March 13, 2011.