Good Black Art's New York Art Week Roundup

by Brianna Beckham

Installation view of New Art Dealers Association Fair. Courtesy of New Art Dealers Association

In New York's first iteration of Art Week, many fairs and exciting exhibits popped up around the city. Several art institutions and organizations were part of the initiative, including Christie’s Auction House, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), New Art Dealers Association(NADA), and The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF), and each contributed to Art Week with its own programming and special events.

Installation view of Latchkey Gallery and Over the Influence Photo by Adam Reich. Courtesy of Artist, Latchkey Gallery and Over the Influence.

This past week we celebrated the fact that the fairs and galleries brought in some excellent talent from artists across the Black diaspora. In the past other cities, such as Los Angeles, London, and Berlin have had their own iteration of an art week in order to bring together the local and international art community to their city. Art Fairs are opportunities for galleries to showcase their artists for collectors, curators, and other art patrons. In the past, art fairs have come under scrutiny for neglecting artists of color, and for marginalizing emerging collectors. That is why it is crucial to recognize and support Black owned galleries that participate in art fairs, and Black artists that are in the booths at those fairs.

Future Fair

Future Fair hosted its first in-person event just last year and now the fair has grown to host over 30 exhibitors, local and international. Some highlights from the fair include booths from Superposition Gallery, Tern Gallery, Dominique Gallery and Latchkey Gallery. Latchkey Gallery is a nomadic contemporary art gallery that re-envisions the viewing experience. Their booth had a solo presentation by Jesse Wright, an artist based in Newark, New Jersey. His mixed media paintings reference his mixed Jamaican-American heritage with figures fragmented and fluctuating between legibility and illegibility. The artist Michael Andrew Booker also had a solo booth at the fair with the gallery Morton Fine Art. Michael conjoins geometric designs with figuration and the pieces in the booth are all recent depictions of his journey coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesse Wright. Yuh Dun Know Christine's Seti(Salome).2019. Acrylic, posters on paper on wood. 42 x 40in. Courtesy of the artist and Latchkey gallery.
Installation view of Superposition Gallery booth at Future Fair with the artist Muna Malik. Courtesy of Superposition Gallery and Future Fair.
Cydne Jasmin Coleby. Can We Meet Halfway?, 2022 Acrylic, decorative paper, photo collage, wax batik fabric, gold foil, and glitter on wooden panel 48 × 72 in 121.9 × 182.9 cm. Courtesy the artist and Tern Gallery.

New Art Dealers Association (NADA)

 

The New Art Dealers Association Fair (NADA) also returned to the city this year with many excellent booths from local and international galleries after a brief hiatus. Chela Mitchell Gallery, a Black owned art gallery based in D.C., had a solo presentation by the artist Nate Palmer. The artist exhibited a series of photographs and often uses documentary photography to capture themes of love, gentrification, and fatherhood. Other highlights include a booth from exhibiting a solo presentation from the artist Walter Cruz, exhibiting multimedia paintings and sculptures wrapped with rope. Document Gallery featured new works from the artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya, a Black queer artist working with photography to re-imagine portraiture and the Black queer aesthetic. Oluseye, a Nigerian-Canadian artist, showcased an installation about the Black loyalists, a community who moved to Canada during the revolution and struggled to make their own living in the country. The installation is made out of farm tools to represent the hard labor the community had to endure in the new place. Finally, Regular Normal had a booth in special collaboration with Galeria Playera, with work by Obi Agwam, a painter who creates characters inspired by real and imaginary events blending realism with fantasy.

 

Walter Cruz, “It Could All Be So Simple If We Understood The Basics (Choose Joy)”, 2021 Wood Panel, Rope, Paper, Cotton, I-Type Polaroid Film, Ink, Marker, Acrylic, Spray Paint, Pumice Stone, Copper 36 × 24 inches. Images courtesy of the artist, Swivel Gallery and Cary Whittier

Galleries

If you didn’t get a chance to go to the fairs, there were numerous gallery openings coinciding with art week around the city. David Kordensk Gallery opened its new space in New York with a solo show by artist Lauren Halsey. The artist is most known for her architectural sculptures that use hues, fonts, and images inspired by her community in South Central Los Angeles. Big and bold text like “EDGE CONTROL” and “BLACK OWNED” painted across stacked boxes critique gentrification while also celebrating Black culture and aesthetics. Lauren Halsey’s show is up until June 11, 2022.

NARI WARD. A Proclamation, 2022. shoelace. 70 x 230 x 1 inches (overall dimensions) 177.8 x 584.2 x 2.54 cm Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Other gallery exhibitions to see are: Nari Ward, “I’ll Take You There; a Proclamation,” at Lehmann Maupin, and: “It Cannot Always Be Night”, by Esmaa Mohammad at Arsenal Contemporary. Nari Ward was born in Jamaica but moved to New York as a child, and uses discarded material to make sculptures and installations that confront social and geopolitical issues on race, migration, and democracy. In his solo show at Lehmann Maupin, Ward has created four new text-based works and a new large-scale installation using a variety of found materials like shoelaces, bottles, milk crates, and suitcases. The exhibit is open until June 4, 2022. Esmaa Mohammad is a mixed media artist and in her solo show at Arsenal Contemporary, she presented a large-scale installation using dandelions and a powerful sculpture that imagines the presence of two people using Du-rags. The exhibit is open until June 18, 2022.

Esmaa Mohamoud The Night That I Looked At You, 2022 Polyester Durag, fabric stiffener, water 18h x 14w x 10d in 2/3 + 1 AP

This year, having one special week to see art created unity and much needed community after fairs and events were on pause for two years due to the pandemic. There was more diversity this year, not just in the background of the artists but in the style of artistic expressions chosen by the artists. We have seen figurative Black painting reach new popularity in the past couple of years and many times this type of artwork has been prioritized, while other styles of Black art were overlooked in the art market. While there were still some amazing Black figurative painters this year, abstract and conceptual Black artists were getting their shine as well.

 

Brianna Beckham

Brianna Beckham is an art lover, artist, and arts professional based in New York City. Ever since she took an art history course in 2018, she has been passionate about sharing and telling stories from Black artists. Some of her favorite topics of art to explore are Black abstraction and the history of Black modernism. She currently works at Hauser & Wirth and is excited about working with other talented artists and passionate people who love arts and culture.