Magnificent brownstones frame the streets that surround the Studio Museum in Harlem. Yet the contents of the museum, specifically Tenses, one of the current exhibitions, intensify and expose the viewer to the beauty, intrigue, and culture of the area. Furthermore, Tenses provides new perspectives of life and unique images of the world around the viewer. Tenses, organized by Assistant Curator Amanda Hunt, features works by three participating artists of the Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum.
The Artist-in-Residence program is a critical characteristic of the museum as it focuses on advancing the careers of visual artists of Latino and African descent by providing three select local, national, or international individuals with the opportunity of an eleven-month residency and a salary. Without programs such as the Artist-in-Residence program, the public would remain in the dark on the achievements of artists worldwide. Recognition keeps the arts alive and thriving. The importance of the program is seen through the high caliber of work that the chosen artists present. This year’s members are multimedia artists EJ Hill, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, and Jordan Casteel. Their incredible artwork fills Tenses making the exhibition a sight worth seeing.
Jordan Casteel’s six paintings on display, which were all created this year, portray vibrant snapshots of the culture of Harlem-specifically the vendors who are practically landmarks on the streets. Her colorful works mirror the vivacious street art and graffiti of the area in their focus on bold colors against a darker background. The distinctness of the subject of the painting (a person) evokes a feeling of relatability; the viewer feels they can understand and make a connection with the subject. For instance, in one painting called Kevin the Kiteman, the bright colors of the foreground contrasting a duller background makes the vendor holding kites the viewer’s sole focus. Due to Casteel’s technique, the vendor seems more realistic and the painting is relatable. Casteel successfully encompasses the culture of Harlem in her daring brushstrokes, while continuing a theme she has been pursuing for years: the identity of black males.
Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s works are a collage of photo-based inkjet prints as well as video and sculpture. Huffman’s videos, including Stanza (2016), are fast paced and uniquely filmed, illustrating a new perspective on the world and pushing the boundaries of the viewers’ understanding of point of view. These works challenge the stereotypical perception of people and objects through fragmented filming.
EJ Hill’s sole work on display, a neon piece with curving and turning tracks resembling a roller coaster that circles around a wooden platform on which resides the artist himself, is larger than life. Hill’s piece, A Monumental Offering of Potential Energy (2016), is meant to resemble the ups and downs of life. Additionally, the title is reflected by the presence of the artist resting on the platform. Hill’s relatively motionless body has great potential energy, particularly due to his constant resting as the title suggests.
Tenses will be on display until October 30, 2016. This exhibition that simultaneously presents cultural aspects of Harlem, unique perspectives, and thought-provoking, self-reflecting works is certainly a must see.