From Carrie Mae Weems to Jayson Musson, the evolution of black performance art has been complex, oscillating between dramatic happenings and extensions of visual art for over five decades. A new multimedia exhibition in New York City, entitled "Radical Presence," will survey visual artists of African descent who've left an indelible mark on performance art over the last 50 years, exploring the influence of black performance in contemporary art.
The exhibition, on view at New York University's Grey Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem, highlights artists from the United States and the Caribbean, documenting both performances and art objects from figures like Dread Scott and Xaviera Simmons. Focusing on the radical shifts that occurred in performance art since the 1960s, the show utilizes live works, photography, music scores, costumes and installations to document how performance ideals and concepts have been passed from one generation to another.
"Black performance has been largely contextualized as an extension of theater," states a press release for the exhibition, originally on view at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston."[But] visual artists have integrated performance into their work for over five decades, generating a repository of performance work that has gone largely unrecognized until now."
"Radical Presence" presents a lens through which we can reinterpret the iconic dance, music and theatrical pieces by black artists of the past. The exhibit also serves to offer a comprehensive list of performers that the curators have deemed historic, whether or not they're already household names. In honor of the exhibition, we're highlighting 10 of the artists on view in NYC this month. Scroll through the list below and let us know your thoughts on the artists in the comments.
1. Trenton Doyle Hancock
Shown here performing Devotion (2013), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, January 31, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Photo: Max Fields. (To be performed at Grey Art Gallery, NYU on November 7, 2013.)
2. David Hammons
Spade (Power to the Spade), 1969. Body print, pigment, and mixed media on paper. 53 1/4 x 35 1/4 in. Collection of Jack and Connie Tilton, New York. (On view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
3. Senga Nengudi
Performance Piece, 1978 (performed by Maren Hassinger). Gelatin silver print, 31 1/2 x 40 in. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Photo: Harmon Outlaw (Photographs on view at The Studio Museum in Harlem; sculpture on view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
4. Lorraine O’Grady
Untitled (Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire and her Master of Ceremonies enter the New Museum), 1980–83, printed 2009 , Gelatin silver print, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4 in. Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York. (On view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
5. Pope L.
Pope L. performing Eating the Wall Street Journal (2000), The Sculpture Center, New York, 2000, Courtesy the artist, Photo: Lydia Grey. (Installation on view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
6. Dave McKenzie
While Supplies Last, 2003, Cast polyresin, Each 6 x 2 (diameter) in. Courtesy the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles, Projects, and Wien Lukatsch Gallery. Photo: Don Quaintance. (On view at The Studio Museum in Harlem)
7. Satch Hoyt
Say It Loud, 2004, Books, metal staircase, microphone, speakers, and sound, Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Peter Gabriel. (On view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
8. Jean-Ulrick Désert
Negerhosen2000 / The Travel Albums, 2003, From a series of forty digitally printed images, pigmented inks, and pencil on archival paper with mixed media collage, 11 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. Courtesy the artist (On view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
9. Lyle Ashton Harris
Memoirs of Hadrian #9, 2002, Unique Polaroid, 24 x 20 in. Courtesy the artist and CRG Gallery, New York. (On view at Grey Art Gallery, NYU)
10. Girl (Chitra Ganesh + Simone Leigh)
My dreams, my works must wait till after hell…, 2011 (video still), Digital video, color, sound, TRT 7:14 min. Courtesy the artists. (Video on view at The Studio Museum in Harlem)