With Armory Show, the world catches up with Carrie Mae Weems

Now, of course, the entire nation is facing issues of police violence against blacks. Exclusion of Coloreds from Museum Ecclesiastes; And the lack of black and brown representation in Hollywood. But those who have followed Weems over the 40 years of her practice – through photography, video, installation, music and text – say the artist has always been ahead of her time.

Beginning December 2, in a strong signal that the world has caught up, Whims acquired the massive Drill Hall in Park Avenue Armory with “The Shape of Things,” described as “the largest and most important interdisciplinary art gallery practice in the past decade” .

“It’s the oracle of the 21st century,” he said. Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Associate Professor of Art History, Architecture, and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. “Carrie has been at the forefront of addressing issues related not only to our humanity, but to its racial dimensions. Want to investigate the history of injustice and redemption? You have to understand Carrie Maywims’ work.”

In a recent interview – one that had to be done over the phone due to fear of exposure to Covid (she later tested negative) – the artist, 68, emphasized her longtime involvement in social justice.

“I’ve been working with these ideas for years,” she said. “They’re not trending for me.”

Weems said the account about the race now running in museums in the wake of the killing of George Floyd is in part an “extraordinary reaction to what has happened in the past two years,” adding that people of color are suddenly being pushed into situations they should. He always had access to.

But Weems – whose voice is soft and calm – said she also hopes she can make lasting change at this juncture. “I’m excited for the moment,” she said, “and I’m also a little terrified of the moment.” “I’m really looking forward to seeing how the institutions negotiate their future and what that might mean, because I don’t think we really know yet. Right now, we’re kind of swimming in the dark, just trying to understand one day at a time how to move this ball up the hill without fully understanding how steep the hill is.”

This is why her practice—in addition to the Armory Show—includes “meetings,” meetings of normally secluded experts talking to each other, which Wems deems essential to progress. Armory’s list of scheduled subscribers ranges from Paint Dyson turquoise For writer and curator Simon Wu.

“I am interested in how people can unite across certain ideas and platforms,” Weems said. “One of the things a lot of institutions say is, ‘We don’t know the African American artists, we don’t know the brown curators, we don’t know who they are.’ Well, here are 150 of them for you to choose from.”

You might be famous for it kitchen table series (1989-90), a series of theatrical scenes depicting the artist exploring femininity – raising children, negotiating a relationship – and steadily working and touching on creating projects critical of culture.

In turn, the culture recognized her contributions: in 2013, she received a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, and the following year she became the first black woman to have Retrospective of the Guggenheim.

Her idea for the Armory Show came out after a whole day decade It organized there in December 2017, just over a year after President Donald J. Trump was elected. “I’ve thought a lot about circus politics, circus politics, the history of violence, and how to bring all these ideas together,” she said.

Trump’s presidency, along with what she saw as an apparent backlash against President Barack Obama because of his race, made Weams want to deconstruct how the country has dealt with “America’s turning brown.”

“How are institutions going to negotiate this matter, whether it’s museums, galleries, or institutions like the Armory?” she said.

Among the new works in the current exhibition, which runs through December 31, Weems also sought to explore whether the signs of progress spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement would prove to be more than a fleeting crisis of national conscience. “How sustainable is this?” She said. “How we are now moving forward is a very profound and important question.”

The show includes a series of large-scale installations, including a Cyclorama (a panoramic image on a cylindrical platform inside) from new and existing film footage, and 2012’sLincoln, Lonnie and IA digital video presentation that uses optical illusions in which you look at Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address.

The Armory Gallery also features a series of shows, “The Land of Broken Dreams” Starts December 9 It includes artist talks, poetry readings, concerts, and scholarly discussions.

He said the current prominence of the Whims questions “speaks of the cyclical nature of our history.” Avery Willis Hoffman, artistic director of the Brown Institute of Art at Brown University, which is involved in Armory Gallery. “We have to keep coming back to some of these difficult and difficult topics.”

Weams said she learned in 1984 that the US population would dominate the population of color over the next 20 years, prompting a series of demographic research that she continues to this day — partly through public discourse.

“Carrie does some truth-telling when she is able to bring people into the room from whom she learned and who she taught,” said Thomas J. Lacks, Curator of Media and Performance at the Museum of Modern Art. “By her sense of immediacy and situation in the scene, she creates an engaging style in which you are asked to be present, to be involved.”

She often uses and touches her art explicitly as a form of activism. During the pandemic, I created public art campaign To draw attention to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Latino and Native American communities. It’s called “Covid Resistance / Take 6!” – A nod to six-foot social distancing – Art-focused messages appeared on billboards, shopping bags, buttons and fridge magnets.

“I see myself being deeply involved in trying to deal with my time issues in the best way I know,” she said.

Weems said she also tries to use her work as a way to nurture and nurture empathy, to understand those she might oppose — even white supremacist groups. That walked in CharlottesvilleVirginia, in 2017.

“When I think of these forces on the right, I feel empathy, because I’m human,” she said. “There’s a change coming that doesn’t necessarily reflect who you thought you were — I understand that fear. Then maybe there’s room for some dialogue and for some kind of progress.”

Push this effort to reach that humanity into the 2016 Weems Project “Notes of Grace: Meditations Now,” Theatrical piece inspired by a white gunman killed nine people In a historic black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, the year before, I told through the story of a woman trying to bury her brothers.

“I have this beautiful recorded conversation with my mother talking about the meaning of grace as a deep space of compassion, understanding, charity and love,” Weams said. “By answering that question for me she was able to reach a certain level of clarity.”

Wims recalled another formative conversation with her mother, Carrie Polk—a still surviving factory and former domestic worker—since she left home to make her way as an artist. “I was wondering what my mother thought of me,” Wems said, “and one day I called him while I was living in San Francisco and said, ‘I wish I had done with my life what you do with yours.’” He gave me that confidence. Even though I was wild and crazy and living alone at a very young age, you encouraged me.”

Her father, Merly Weams, who Died In 2002, he was similarly inspiring. The owner of a rescue company called Speedy & Son, he also had a creative streak, singing along with his brothers on the same stage as Sam Cooke in the Mississippi Delta. “He told me from a young age that I had the right to be in any room,” Weems said. “This great lesson has solidified me in a very profound way.”

Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1953, the second of seven children, Wims became interested in drawing and painting early on. She said, “I remember running up to the attic and pretending to live somewhere else, I was dancing around the living room, pretending to be a ballerina.”

At 16, she gave birth to a daughter, Faith C. Whims, who now works with children in California. The following year, she joined Anna Halperin’s Experimental Dancers’ Workshop in San Francisco and later moved to New York, where she studied photography at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Her boyfriend gave her a camera on her twentieth birthday. “I took her like a fish to the water,” Wems said. “I immediately saw it as a tool that would lead me into my life and across the world.”

She also got to know photographers from Black, including Roy DeCarava and his Kamoinge workshop. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s where I want to be,'” Weems said. “

After receiving his BA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and MA in Photography from the University of California, San Diego, Wims studied folklore at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School.

In 1985, she married Jeff Hoon, who had recently resigned as director of photography for the nonprofit Light Work. Weems described him as “the world’s greatest companion to Fahmy.” They live in Syracuse, New York, but also have a home in Fort Green, Brooklyn.

“The younger artists of today are clearly descendants of Carrie Mae Weems, so it’s a great moment to showcase a wide range of work and show new work,” said Tom Eccles, who organized the Armory Gallery. “Some artists need to change the moment when you suddenly realize how relevant this work is.”

Eccles, executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, said he was surprised that Wems had asked him to work on her program. “I told her, ‘Hey, Carrie, I’m white,’” he said. “It doesn’t worry me,” she said.

The exhibition appears to reflect the artist’s standing as a senior member of the institution. But Weems said she would never feel it’s arrived or gone.

“I see myself as an artist who is very interested in some interests, and those concerns have not yet been addressed,” she said.

“It’s a lifelong struggle that doesn’t end with completing a set of work,” she added. “It’s life.”

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