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Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) announces 20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art, a major contemporary group exhibition opening July 22, 2017, in the museum’s Heinz Galleries. Featuring a diverse array of makers and media, 20/20 showcases artworks from two museums that address notions of identity and social inequality in art and life across the 20th century and into the 21st.
In a unique institutional collaboration, curators Eric Crosby and Amanda Hunt present a group exhibition with works by 40 artists, 20 each from the collections of CMOA and the Studio Museum. Responding to a tumultuous and deeply divided moment in our nation’s history, the curators have mined these collections to offer a metaphoric picture of America today. Spanning nearly 100 years—from 1920s photographs by James VanDerZee to recent works by Kerry James Marshall, Ellen Gallagher, and Collier Schorr—20/20 provides a critical opportunity to prompt conversations about the necessity of art during times of social and political transformation.
While at first glance the two institutions might seem very different—one a general art museum in Western Pennsylvania and the other a culturally specific museum in New York City—a closer look reveals shared histories and values. Both museums are committed to presenting contemporary art within a broader historical context, and are situated in communities where black culture flourished during and after the Great Migration and continues to thrive today. These similarities, as well as their many differences, provided fertile ground for making this exhibition.
Founded in 1968, The Studio Museum in Harlem has provided a unique platform for over one hundred emerging artists through its Artist-in-Residence program, demonstrating the institution’s commitment to working with, and collecting from, contemporary artists of African descent. Since its founding in 1895, Carnegie Museum of Art has sought to survey and collect the very best of contemporary art on an increasingly global scale with its many Carnegie Internationals. It has also presented the Forum series since 1990, a dynamic program of exhibitions by some of today’s most innovative contemporary artists.
Additionally, the Studio Museum and CMOA share a commitment to building, stewarding, and exhibiting collections that portray rich and diverse artistic heritages. The Studio Museum’s collection features nearly 2,000 works dating from the 19th century to the present, focusing on art-historical contributions by artists of African descent and work influenced and inspired by black culture. The museum is also the custodian of an extensive archive of photography by James VanDerZee, the renowned chronicler of the Harlem community from 1906 to 1983. CMOA’s collection of more than 30,000 objects features a broad spectrum of visual arts primarily from the 19th century to the present, including painting, sculpture, prints and drawings, film and video, photography, architectural casts and models, and decorative arts. The museum also houses the archive of nearly 80,000 negatives by Pittsburgh photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris.
20/20 draws together works from these important collections in dialogue. The exhibition unfolds through a thematic exploration of the foundations of our national condition, ultimately championing the critical role of art in political and individual expression. The first section of the exhibition, titled “A More Perfect Union,” presents a group of works that consider the formation of our democracy and shifting notions of national identity. A 1944 painting by the self-taught Pennsylvania-born artist Horace Pippin depicts an imagined scene of a young Abraham Lincoln reaching for his first book by candlelight. Presented alongside works by Lyle Ashton Harris, Jasper Johns, Glenn Ligon, Louise Nevelson, and Gordon Parks, Pippin’s image resonates in the present, signaling how essential the quest for knowledge remains to the Constitution’s democratic promise of unity.
The following two sections of the exhibition—“Working Thought” and “American Landscape”—expand on this by mapping contemporary American experience as a product of historical inheritances. “Working Thought” considers the basis of the national economy and the labor needed to sustain it, with works by Melvin Edwards, David Hammons, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, and others. Walker’s silhouetted narrative scenes interrogate the conditions of enslavement and forced production in the Antebellum South, while Edwards’s Lynch Fragments accumulate cast-off industrial scraps into welded sculptures that reflect on histories of racial violence in America.
In turn, “American Landscape” considers the effects of our national economy on lived experience through artworks that document or express the built environment, past and present. The photographs of LaToya Ruby Frazier and Zoe Strauss record the effects of industry and dispossession on marginalized communities, while more abstract works by Mark Bradford, Abigail DeVille, and Kori Newkirk make use of everyday and found materials to reclaim and reinvent our perspective on natural and urban landscapes.
At the center of 20/20, a section titled “Documenting Black Life” is dedicated to the work of Charles “Teenie” Harris and James VanDerZee. These two prolific photographers working in the post–World War I era captured daily life of the black middle class. VanDerZee and Harris depict Harlem and Pittsburgh, respectively, both destinations of the Great Migration, as bustling, vibrant communities. Presented together, these artists testify to the power of the photographic image as it has recorded the American experience.
The final two sections of 20/20—“Shrine for the Spirit” and “Forms of Resistance”—map a spectrum of artistic response to more current conditions. Works by Edgar Arceneaux, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Ben Jones, Quentin Morris, and Thaddeus Mosley offer quiet, sublime moments of spirituality and introspection, while more directly political gestures by Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, and Lorna Simpson explore the power of language, identity, and performance as instruments of institutional critique. This final gallery also showcases CMOA’s newly acquired work from 2016, Untitled (Gallery), by Kerry James Marshall, whose practice challenges art history by reinserting the black figure emphatically into the canon of Western painting.
Taken together, the artworks in this unprecedented collaboration offer multiple pathways for reflection and interpretation, allowing visitors to meditate on the long, complex history of our country. “20/20 is not a history lesson,” the curators explain. “It is an opportunity for expanded conversation—between artists and artworks, curators and audiences, institutions and cities.
20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art features works by:
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Charles “Teenie” Harris
Lyle Ashton Harris
Kerry James Marshall
Tim Rollins and K.O.S.
This exhibition is organized by Carnegie Museum of Art in partnership with The Studio Museum in Harlem and curated by Eric Crosby, Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Carnegie Museum of Art, and Amanda Hunt, former Associate Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, now Director of Education and Public Programs, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
This exhibition was organized by Carnegie Museum of Art in partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Major funding for this exhibition is provided by The Henry L. Hillman Fund. Additional support is provided by The Heinz Endowments, The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art, and The Ruth Levine Memorial Fund.
General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Core to this work is the vision of a just community, where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.
About Carnegie Museum of Art
Carnegie Museum of Art enriches people’s lives through art. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Our core activities—collecting, conserving, presenting, and interpreting works of art—make those experiences possible. Our world-class collection of over 30,000 works emphasizes art, architecture, photography, and design from the 19th century to the present. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. Learn more: call 412.622.3131 or visit cmoa.org.
About The Studio Museum in Harlem
Founded in 1968 by a diverse group of artists, community activists and philanthropists, The Studio Museum in Harlem is internationally known for its catalytic role in promoting the work of outstanding artists of African descent. Now approaching its 50th anniversary, the Studio Museum is preparing to construct a new home at its current location on Manhattan’s West 125th Street, designed by internationally renowned architect David Adjaye with Cooper Robertson as the first building created expressly for the institution’s program. The new building will enable the Studio Museum to better serve a growing and diverse audience, provide additional educational opportunities for people of all ages, expand its program of world-renowned exhibitions, effectively display its singular collection, and strengthen its trailblazing Artist-in-Residence program. Learn more: call 212.864.4500 or visit studiomuseum.org.