Latest News in African American Art: Arthur Jafa Wins PIAC, Black Last Supper Uncovered, Firelei Báez at ICA Boston, Nick Cave Among ‘Greats,’ Simone Leigh Acquisition & More


Last Supper by Akili Ron Anderson. | Photo by Evy Mages, Courtesy the photographer

 

The following review presents a snapshot of recent news in African American art and related black culture:

 

NEWS

A construction crew made a monumental discovery earlier this month. A black Last Supper frieze was found behind drywall at a former church building in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The work was created by Akili Ron Anderson in 1982 when the space housed New Home Baptist Church. (The congregation relocated to Landover, Md., in the 1990s.) It has since been home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and was being renovated by the Studio Theatre for its new Studio Acting Conservatory, which will house acting studios. The theater’s founder hopes the sculpture will end up in a museum. Anderson was the first chair of the visual arts department at Duke Ellington School of the Arts and today he is a professor of drawing, painting, and sculpture at Howard University. Washingtonian

Akili Ron Anderson worked on the installation between choir practices and services, whenever the church was not in use. “Most of the time I was in there by myself,” he says. “It actually got to be something of a spiritual experience for me.”

AWARDS & HONORS

Arthur Jafa won the 2019 Prix International d’Art Contemporain (PIAC), the international prize for contemporary award given by the Prince Pierre Foundation in Monaco. Nominated by South African curator Tumelo Mosaka, Jafa was recognized for his seminal video installation “Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death” (2016) at an Oct. 15 ceremony at the Opéra Garnier in Monte-Carlo. The Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker will receive a €75,000 cash award (about $83,000) and funding to support a new work. Prince Pierre Foundation

British author Bernardine Evaristo won the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel “Girl, Woman, Other.” Evaristo is the first black woman to win the prestigious UK literary prize. She is sharing the honor. Despite rules requiring one winner, the judges awarded the prize to both Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, who was recognized for “The Testaments.” New York Times

Winners of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants were announced Sept. 25. Recipients receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds. The 25 grantees include Paul Stephen Benjamin (Atlanta), Jamal Cyrus (Houston), Lauren Halsey (Los Angeles), Daniel Lind-Ramos (Loiza, P.R.), and Suzanne Jackson (Savannah, Ga.). Joan Mitchell Foundation

 

PROJECTS/COMMISSIONS

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston has commissioned Firelei Báez for the next season of the Watershed. For her largest installation to date, Báez plans an architectural sculpture that “reimagines ancient ruins as though the sea had receded from the Watershed floor to reveal the archeology of human history in the Caribbean.” The installation at the museum’s East Boston project space will be on view May 24-Sept. 7, 2020. ICA Boston

 

ACQUISITIONS

The Cleveland Museum of Art announced several new acquisitions on Oct. 16, including “Las Meninas” (2019) by Simone Leigh. The sculpture exemplifies the Brooklyn-based artist’s focus on the black female subjectivity and a variety of diasporic cultures and traditions. The museum plans to display the work in early November 2019. Cleveland Museum of Art

“The sculpture is informed by Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas (1656). While [Simone] Leigh’s skirted form evokes Velazquez’s infanta, it also refers to the Afro-Brazilian religious tradition candomblé, and the architecture of Mousgoum communities in Cameroon.” — Cleveland Museum of Art

APPOINTMENTS & DEPARTURES

Toccarra A. H. Thomas is joining the Joan Mitchell Foundation as director of the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. Her appointment was announced Oct. 8. Thomas will oversee the center’s day-to-day operations, develop public programming, and manage the artist residency program. She previously served in inaugural roles running Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, N.Y., and SPACE in Portland, Maine. Joan Mitchell Foundation

Linda Johnson Rice resigned as chairman emeritus of the Ebony Media board. Johnson Publishing’s Jet and Ebony magazine brands were sold to a private equity firm in 2016. Rice said she stepped down because the transition didn’t result in what she envisioned. Chicago Tribune

 

EVENTS

The next College Art Association (CAA) conference is in Chicago Feb. 12-15, 2020. Chicago-based artist Amanda Williams, who is recognized for her architecture-driven practice, is delivering the keynote address. Northwestern University Art Historian Huey Copeland is interviewing Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist Arnold J. Kemp. Also, Columbia University Art Historian Kellie Jones will be honored Feb. 13 during the Distinguished Scholar Session. CAA

The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) is holding its annual conference in Seattle May 26, 2020, and the keynote speakers include Kaywin Feldman, the new director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and multidisciplinary artist Barbara Earl Thomas. Seattle-based Thomas is on the board of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation and has major exhibitions forthcoming at the Seattle Art Museum (2020) and the Henry Gallery (2021), the museum at the University of Washington in Seattle. AAMC

 

MAGAZINES

The New York Times announced The Greats for 2019 and artist Nick Cave is among the creatives being recognized. Known for his Soundsuits and “using materials that range from twigs to crystals to rainbow-colored hair, the artist makes sculptures that, for all their beauty, are visceral and necessary critiques of racial injustice.” Chicago-based Cave is inaugurating, Facility, his new multidisciplinary art space. He was photographed for the T magazine cover and feature by artist Renée Cox. New York Times

A 2017 painting of Whitney Houston (1963-2012) appeared on the September 2019 cover of Artforum. “Star Spangled Banner (Whitney)” is by Brooklyn-based Sam McKinniss. Artforum

 

OPPORTUNITIES

The School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is seeking a full-time, tenure track assistant professor of painting. The deadline to apply is Dec. 2, 2019.

 

IMAGE: Above right, SIMONE LEIGH (American, b. 1967), “Las Meninas,” 2019 (Terracotta, steel, raffia, porcelain, overall: 182.9 x 213.4 x 152.4 cm). | The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchased with funds donated by Scott Mueller 2019.175