A consideration of the abstract reality of Blackness mediated through the Southern landscape, objects of cultural heritage, and artistic vision
Release date: Aug. 22, 2023
“Meditations: Black Expression, Abstraction, and the Spirit,” explores the intersection of spirituality and the artistic practice of Black creatives encountering ideas within the wide lexicon of abstraction. The series takes inspiration from the final panel in artist Frederick J. Brown’s five-painting work The Life of Christ Altarpiece. Brown’s portrayal of The Descent into Hell is an abstracted meditation on the spiritual and emotional sublime within lived experience.
This episode features two artist-curators, Lauren Kelley and Summer Sloane-Britt. Discussion of their current projects — for Kelley, artistic explorations of the movement around repatriation of cultural heritage objects, for Sloane-Britt, curation around themes of Southern landscapes and Black labor — opens into a broader conversation around the power of abstraction in art to open spaces for exploration and agency. They consider abstraction not only in visual terms, but in a variety of modes such as taxonomies, systems of power and labor, historical and narrative temporalities, and the relationship between fugitivity and futurity.
Producer: David Brinker
Creative Director: Bentley Brown
Videographer: Sean Gilchrist
Lauren Kelley was born in Baltimore in 1975 and lives and works in Harlem, New York. She has a B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem; The Kitchen, New York; The New Museum; and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, among others. She is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and in 2020 her work was supported by a grant from the Joseph Robert Foundation. From 2017 to 2020, she served as director and chief curator of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in New York.
Summer Sloane-Britt is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She is interested in the global history of photography, particularly the intersection of photography and liberation movements. Her dissertation explores the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) photography department, emphasizing their innovative contributions to the 1960s Black Freedom Movement. At the Institute, Summer co-curated the exhibition Cauleen Smith, H-E-L-L-O: To Do All at Once (2021) and a forthcoming group exhibition on Chicana muralists in Los Angeles. She recently contributed to Women and Migration(s) II (Open Book Publishers, 2022) and co-authored an article in NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press, 2022). Summer has held positions at the National Gallery of Art, the Grey Art Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Bentley Brown is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and doctoral candidate at The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and is based in the Bronx, New York, and Phoenix. His research at the institute explores the pioneering role of Black artists and Black creative spaces within New York City’s contemporary art movements of the late 1960s through the mid-1980s. In his artistic practice, inspired by African American cultural production, abstract and figurative expressionist approaches to the artistic process and the desert landscape of his native Phoenix, Brown uses the mediums of canvas, found objects, photo-collage and film to explore themes of Black identity, cosmology and American interculturalism.