Jan 23—Mar 29, 2020
Studio Museum 127, 429 W. 127th St.
On view at Studio Museum 127, Harlem Postcards is an ongoing project that invites contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds to reflect on Harlem as a site of cultural activity, political vitality, visual stimuli, artistic contemplation and creative production. Representing intimate and dynamic perspectives of Harlem, the images reflect the idiosyncratic visions of contemporary artists from a wide range of backgrounds and locations. Each photograph has been reproduced as a limited edition postcard available free to visitors.
This season, the featured artists include Ilana Harris-Babou, S*an D. Henry-Smith, Lucia Hierro, and Michael Kelly Williams.
Harlem Postcards Winter 2020 is organized by Makayla Bailey, Curatorial Fellow, Exhibitions and Jordan Jones, Curatorial Fellow, Permanent Collection.
My father came to Harlem over thirty years ago. He moved along with other Senegalese immigrants, forming the vibrant community on 116th Street known as Le Petit Sénégal, or Little Senegal. I wanted to honor the impact West African immigrants have had on Harlem and the dreams that drew them here. This is a photograph of a lenticular print that hangs on the wall in my father’s apartment. It depicts Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, a religious and anti-colonial figure central to Senegalese identity. His image can be found in homes throughout Harlem. It is a reminder of faith and home, both old and new.
Growing up in New York with a father who made music for a living, a mother who nannied, and two older siblings meant there were some lean months. As an adult, I appreciate how much my parents managed to do for us. My artistic process involves looking closely at the easily overlooked parts of our day-to-day and finding objects and images of cultural and economic significance. The image of the toy machines, usually located outside of corner stores, stood out as a constant in a time of gentrification and change: the gesture of a parent using spare change for a shared moment of chance, awaiting a small plastic ball containing a little plastic toy. The image for me acts as a short story of a wholesome New York moment.
Ask me where, and I’ll tell you who; home is where the people are. I first met poet, vocalist, and sound artist, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, in her native Harlem, or home where she’s always been; though, she has been with me elsewhere: Her book TwERK had been in my orbit for some time, teaching me about sound and play—every poem has a trick up its sleeve. I sought light, and light sound me, found me soundful; LaTasha has been a mentor, a friend, in study, in life. I had the honor of collaborating on a portrait with her in her home, where she makes her work, her sound, where she’s always been here in Harlem. Adorned in ancestral technicolor, she showed me her own postcard collections, swift glances at their secrets, her instruments and artifacts, hats and musical scarves, her growing tropicals a long way from home, but they persist, eagerly.
I moved to New York City in 1979 and lived in Harlem’s Sugar Hill for most of those years, before reluctantly moving to Dutchess County in 2018 due to high rents and lack of adequate space. My postcard image was captured on a recent walk down 125th Street, which is rapidly being transformed due to galloping gentrification. I felt like an outsider. This familiar historic area is now almost unrecognizable: Some blocks resemble a generic business strip full of franchises found just about anywhere else, others contain multiple boarded-up storefronts and empty lots. The photograph was taken in an intuitive manner, shooting from the hip. It is a metaphor for what I feel has been happening in Harlem. I am outside, viewing through a matrix of culture, into a space that is being transformed.
Citi. Proud Sponsor of Harlem Postcards. Proud Sponsor of Progress