• Cheryl Montgomery

The New Museum Presents: Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

February 17th to June 6th, 2021


Blues, Blood, Bruise © Glenn Ligon, Text, New Museum (Photo Credit: Gioncarlo Valentine/The New York Times)


Glenn Ligon’s text spells out “Blues, Blood, Bruise” in neon letters and is displayed on the side of the New Museum. This phrase is taken from an interview with Black teenager Daniel Hamm, who was brutally beaten in 1964 when he and his friend Wallace Baker were arrested in New York for a crime they did not commit.

Video- Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America- The New Museum


Grief and Grievance brings together thirty-seven artists showcasing art throughout many mediums to address the concept of “mourning, commemoration, and loss as a direct response to the national emergency of racist violence experienced by Black communities across America.” This exhibition consists of works including video, painting, sculpture, installation, photography, sound, and performance made in the last decade, along with several key historical works and many new commissions created with themes of Black grief in response to racial aggression.


Okwui Enwezor in 2015. Photograph: WENN Rights Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo


This exhibition was originally conceived by Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019), a Nigerian curator, art critic, poet, and educator specializing in Art History. He was well respected and beloved in the art world, being named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Curators by Artland Magazine. In 2016, he was ranked 20th in the ArtReviewPower 100:Most Influential People in the Contemporary Art World. Enwezor conceptualized this exhibition in 2018, before the violent murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protest movement against racial injustices, or the disproportionate infection rates of COVID-19 illness and death within African American communities. He stated, “with the media’s normalization of white nationalism, the last two years have made clear that there is a new urgency to assess the role that artists, through works of art, have played to illuminate the searing contours of the American body politic.” Sadly, Enwezor passed away on March 15, 2019, but with the support of his estate and many friends and collaborators, the New Museum established an advisory team. Together, they respected his wishes for the exhibition to coincide with the 2020 US presidential election with slight delays due to the pandemic.


Black Monolith, for Okwui Enwezor (Charlottesville), 2017-2020. @ Julie Mehretu. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 84 x 72 in. (213.4 x 182.9 cm)


In an interview with Artful Jaunts, Julie Mehretu said Black Monolith was based on an image from the violence in Charlottesville. She was working on this piece when she received the news that curator and friend, Enwezor had passed away. It was then she knew that this particular piece was his, and that it would be included in this exhibition. She said, “He and I had been talking about the colonial sublime, terror, and violence in the land and landscape painting, and we had been having conversations around these images.” This expressive abstract piece is also a nod to the late Jack Whitten, who made black monolith paintings for his heroes who had died.


Antoine's Organ, 2016 © Rashid Johnson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Martin Parsekian


Rashid Johnson is also featured in this exhibition. Antoine’s Organ is his largest architectural grid system ever shown in the United States. Its trellis structure holds books, screens showing videos of his earlier pieces, live plants in hand-crafted ceramic pots all created and decorated by him, as well as mounds of shea butter, all signifying the importance of African culture.


Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy


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Complete Artist List (Courtesy of The New Museum):

Terry Adkins (b. 1953; d. 2014) Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. 1960; d. 1988) Kevin Beasley (b. 1985) Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) Mark Bradford (b. 1961) Garrett Bradley (b. 1986) Melvin Edwards (b. 1937) LaToya Ruby Frazier (b. 1982) Charles Gaines (b. 1944) Ellen Gallagher (b. 1965) Theaster Gates (b. 1973) Arthur Jafa (b. 1960) Daniel LaRue Johnson (b. 1938; d. 2017) Rashid Johnson (b. 1977) Jennie C. Jones (b. 1968) Kahlil Joseph (b. 1981) Deana Lawson (b. 1979) Simone Leigh (b. 1967) Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) Tiona Nekkia McClodden (b. 1981) Julie Mehretu (b. 1970) Okwui Okpokwasili (b. 1972) Adam Pendleton (b. 1984) Julia Phillips (b. 1985) Howardena Pindell (b. 1943) Cameron Rowland (b. 1988) Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986) Tyshawn Sorey (b. 1980) Diamond Stingily (b. 1990) Henry Taylor (b. 1958) Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) Kara Walker (b. 1969) Nari Ward (b. 1963) Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) Jack Whitten (b. 1939; d. 2018)