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Contextual Collection

A Harlem museum exhibit hits the road. First stop, San Francisco.

“Hide ’n’ Seek, Kill or Speak,” (2004, paint, ink, collage, mixed media on mylar), 48 inches by 42 inches, by Wangechi Mutu


On view through April 14, Black Refractions: Highlights From the Studio Museum in Harlem lands at Museum of the African Diaspora. This landmark exhibition—the first traveling show of artwork from the Studio Museum’s permanent collection in 25 years— previews the creative achievements of artists of African descent.

“The Museum of the African Diaspora is founded on the legacy of the Studio Museum in Harlem,” says Emily Kuhlmann, director of exhibitions and curatorial affairs at MoAD. “As institutional colleagues dedicated to culturally specific missions celebrating artists of African descent, our audience is able to visit significant works of some of the most important contemporary artists.”

Exhibit A: a display including more than 60 works by nearly 50 artists dating from the 1920s to the present, among them celebrated figures such as Beauford Delaney, Wangechi Mutu and Carrie Mae Weems. While paintings are primary, the exhibition presents everything from neon and assemblage to photography, sculptures, mixed media and more. Black Refractions—a title that invokes the Studio Museum’s inaugural exhibition, Electronic Refractions II, a solo show of the work of Tom Lloyd—proposes a plurality of narratives rather than focusing on any singular experience of those who are African or of African descent. “The works explore themes such as portraiture, materiality, artistic hair practices, abstraction, gender performance and the legacy of the transatlantic trade of enslaved people,” says Kuhlmann. Black Refractions is curated by Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection at The Studio Museum In Harlem. MoAd’s presentation is organized by Emily Kuhlmann, Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs, Moad. 685 Mission St.


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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