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by Joy Garnett
|Just as you were wondering if New York's cultural tempo might actually pause gently during this mid-winter white-out, Black History Month is here, and with it a slew of events and programs guaranteed to keep you running uptown, downtown and back, snow or no snow.
Begin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has organized a series of lectures, gallery talks and films in celebration of Black History Month, all of which are free with museum admission. Gallery talks run several times a week and subjects vary from "Birds and Beasts in West African Art" to "Musical Instruments of African Heritage" and "The Poetry of Art." This last, slated for Feb. 16, promises to be special, as two actors will read contemporary and traditional African poetry from Senghor to South Africa in the Met's African galleries.
An amazing series of films covering aspects of traditional African art, as well as the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary art, will be screened at the Met's Uris Center auditorium several times weekly throughout the month. Showing Feb. 5 is Inagina: The Last House of Iron (52 min.), directed by Eric Huysecom & Bernard Agustoni, 1998, which recreates the building of a traditional furnace for smelting in Mali.
To be screened Feb. 8 is Faith Ringgold: The Last Story Quilt (28 min.), directed by David Irving, 1991, in which the celebrated contemporary artist discusses her technique and shows us a sampling of her quilts. On Feb. 9 is Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance (57 min.), directed by Amber Edwards, 1993; Feb. 10 features From These Roots (29 min.) and Robert Colescott: The One-Two Punch (30 min.). From These Roots, directed by William Greaves, 1974, uses photographs and film footage to recreate the social and political climate of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Robert Colescott: The One-Two Punch, directed by David Irving in 1992, profiles painter Robert Colescott (b.1925), while he works in his studio.
For a full schedule you can visit the Met's spanking new, post-Y2K website at http://www.metmuseum.org and click til you reach its spiffy, searchable calendar of events.
Practice makes perfect
Fifty of these photographs along with related sculptures will be on view, accompanied by a perfectly designed catalogue which recalls through its vintage installation shots, design and typeface, that momentous, modernist, quintessentially New York MoMA paradigm shift of 1935. Gallery talks will be given by the Met's photograph study collection archivist and curator of the exhibition, Virginia-Lee Webb, and by African Art curator Alisa LaGamma. Check the calendar for details.
The National Black Fine Art Show
Later in the week you can head downtown to the Museum for African Art in Soho, where a series of seminars on African American art is slated for Saturday, Feb. 5 and Sunday, Feb. 6 -- at the museum. Proceeds to benefit the Museum for African Art. For reservations and information call (212) 777-5218.
Hair is here
To commemorate Black History Month, the Museum for African Art is organizing a series of lectures and programs that are listed at http://www.africanart.org/html/educational_programs.htm.
Black New York
It includes over 400 objects -- mostly photographs and ephemera drawn from the Schomburg's various collections, and is accompanied by a catalogue, The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology, 400 Years of African American History (N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999), with a foreword by Maya Angelou.
The concept behind the show is a play on the various meanings implied by the word "translation" across South Africa's varied and conflicted linguistic playing field. A performance by the artist Willem Boshof entitled "Kykafrikaans" will be held at the gallery on Friday, Feb. 11th, 7-9pm. Contact the gallery for a schedule of special events which will be held throughout the exhibition.
Highlights include several pieces from Benin that have been given to the museum, and an unusual geometrically designed Songye figure. Many of the works are well known in African art circles for their stunning quality. As is always the case with public exhibitions of private collections, the overall vision of the collector comes to light -- Mrs. Riese is past president of the American Abstract Artists Association, and her collection reflects a strong interest in abstraction.
JOY GARNETT is a New York artist. By day she works at the Robert Goldwater Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In the bookstore:
Perfect Documents: Walker Evans and African Art, 1935
Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts
The Power of Pride: Stylemakers & Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance
Unclassified -- A Walker Evans Anthology: Selections from the Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Black New Yorkers: The Schomburg Illustrated Chronology