I have slowly begun to venture out (with my mask) after what has felt like an eternity in hibernation. One of the benefits of living in a city is the plethora of cultural events and artistic installations, large and small, throughout the city. For those of you who are in need of some inspiration, there are some exhibits not to be missed. April is arts month for me!
The first show I am making time to see is the new “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” exhibit opening April 9 at the Starrett Lehigh at 601 West 26th St. in Manhattan. The exhibit is organized and curated by the family of Jean-Michel Basquiat and features “over 200 never-before-seen and rarely shown paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera, and artifacts tell the story of Jean-Michel from an intimate perspective, intertwining his artistic endeavors with his personal life, influences, and the times in which he lived.” The exhibit closes on April 30 so hurry and purchase tickets, which are selling out quickly.
The second show I cannot wait to see is the “Faith Ringgold: American People” which is a comprehensive exhibit of her roughly six decades worth of work. This exhibit opened in February and runs until June 5, 2022 at the New Museum, 235 Bowery in Manhattan. Faith Ringgold’s artistry and quilts weave together history, activism, the Black experience, and so much more. Ringgold is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and this exhibit and the New Museum is celebrating this icon with a long overdue retrospective of her work.
The last show I want to check out is the “Black Dolls” exhibit at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street). The exhibit runs until June 5, 2022 and “explores handmade cloth dolls made primarily by African American women between 1850 and 1940 through the lens of race, gender, and history.” Featuring over 100 cloth dolls, this exhibit displays the dolls alongside “dozens of historical photographs of white and Black children posed with their playthings and caregivers.” Black dolls have long been a vehicle to reveal difficult truths about race, gender, enslaved Africans on American soil, and the troubled foundation of America. The aim of this exhibit is to instill more substantive conversations to address these issues.
There is so much important art being displayed in New York City, and major cities across the country. It is my hope that we can venture out safely to see the talent of African American artists past and present. Art feeds the soul, whether a tapestry, a painting, or a photograph, we all need art to further confirm how and where we belong. No matter your borough, find time to explore art during the month of April. We deserve it and we need it.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an Associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.