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Brown Foundation Gallery

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art

On View: November 17, 2012 – February 16, 2013

Opening Reception: Friday, November 16, 2012 | 7-9PM



Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, the first comprehensive survey of performance art by black visual artists. While black performance has been largely contextualized as an extension of theater, visual artists have integrated performance into their work for over five decades, generating a repository of performance work that has gone largely unrecognized until now. Radical Presence provides a critical framework to discuss the history of black performance traditions within the visual arts beginning with the “happenings” of the early 1960s, throughout the 1980s, and into the present practices of contemporary artists. Radical Presence features video and photo documentation of performances, performance scores and installations, audience interactive works, as well as art works created as a result of performance actions. In addition, the exhibition features a live performance series scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition, including performances during the opening weekend of the exhibition by Terry Adkins, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, Pope.L, and Tameka Norris.

The exhibition features work by three generations of artists including Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Papo Colo, Jamal Cyrus, Jean-Ulrick Désert, Theaster Gates, Zachary Fabri, Sherman Fleming, Coco Fusco, Girl [Chitra Ganesh + Simone Leigh], David Hammons, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Wayne Hodge, Satch Hoyt, Ulysses S. Jenkins, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Kalup Linzy, Dave McKenzie, Jayson Musson aka Hennessy Youngman, Senga Nengudi, Tameka Norris, Lorraine O’Grady, Clifford Owens, Benjamin Patterson, Adam Pendleton, Adrian Piper, Pope.L, Rammellzee, Sur Rodney (Sur), Jacolby Satterwhite, Dread Scott, Xaviera Simmons, Danny Tisdale, and Carrie Mae Weems.

The history of performance art as a manifestation of radical shifts in social thought and artistic practice is well documented in publications like Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object 1949-1979 by Paul Schimmel, Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body by Sally Banes, as well as Performance: Live Art Since 1960 (1998) by RoseLee Goldberg and her seminal book from 1979, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present. Performance art practices in Latin America were also eloquently documented in the 2008 exhibition Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000 at El Museo del Barrio, New York. Ironically, given the rich history of performance and its prevalence in black artistic practices since the 1960s, this tradition has largely gone unexamined save for a handful of publications including the exhibition catalogue Art as a Verb (1988) by Leslie King Hammond and Lowery Stokes Sims.

To view all video documentation of the exhibition please follow this link to YouTube.


images + video

Pope.L, Eating the Wall Street Journal, The Sculpture Center, New York, Pope.L, Eating the Wall Street Journal, The Sculpture Center, New York, Shaun El C. Leonardo, "El Conquistador vs. The Invisible Man," 2006. Jayson Musson, "Art Thoughtz: How to be a Successful Black Artist," 2010. Digita Girl (Simone Leigh and Chitra Ganesh), Still from "My dreams, my works must wait Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art" Installation view of "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art"


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