Speaking of People Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art
Nov 13, 2014 - Mar 8, 2015
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  • Ellen Gallagher
    Hare, 2013
    Ink, watercolor, oil, pencil and cut paper on paper
    44 4/5 × 46 3/5 in.
    Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
    Photo credit: Ernst Moritz

  • Purvis Young
    Horses, Figures and Railroad Tracks on Ebony, c. 1994
    Paint on paper 
    17 × 11 in., diptych
    Courtesy Skot Foreman, New York, NY
    Photo: Marc Bernier

  • Martine Syms
    Johnson Publishing Company Building, 1971, 2013
    Altered archival photograph
    18 × 24 in.
    Courtesy the artist

  • Jeremy Okai Davis

    Makes the Man, 2012

    Acrylic on canvas

    40 × 40 in.

    Courtesy the artist

Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art explores the ways contemporary artists use Ebony and Jet as a resource and as inspiration in their practices. Published by Johnson Publishing Company for over sixty years, both magazines are cultural touchstones for many African Americans and often represent a commonality between people of diverse backgrounds. Considering Ebony and Jet from a variety of perspectives—as journalistic material and important documenters of black life, as metaphor for African-American culture and as theoretical spaces for black thought and exchange—the exhibition examines the magazines’ material and cultural legacy as artists perceive them. While much of the work in the exhibition utilizes Ebony and Jet imagery and text as source material, for some, the concept of these iconic publications and their institutional histories provides the starting point for artistic production. As popular, widely-circulated print publications, the magazines ushered in a particular phenomenon of collection and display in black domestic spaces. Somewhat analogously, many of the artists included in Speaking of People maintain their own personal archives of these iconic publications.

The first exhibition devoted to this topic, Speaking of People features over thirty works by a multi-generational, interdisciplinary group of sixteen artists. Speaking of People includes photography, painting, sculpture and sound works that will occupy the Museum’s Main galleries and Project Space. Artists in the exhibition include Noel Anderson, Jeremy Okai Davis, Godfried Donkor, Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Lyle Ashton Harris, David Hartt, Leslie Hewitt, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Ayanah Moor, Lorna Simpson, Martine Syms, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas and Purvis Young.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue with essays by Assistant Curator Lauren Haynes; scholars Siobhan Carter-David, Romi Crawford and Elizabeth Alexander; artist Hank Willis Thomas; as well as a foreword by Studio Museum Director and Chief Curator Thelma Golden. The publication is designed by The Original Champions of Design, New York.

Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art is organized by Lauren Haynes, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection.