‘Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present’ to Open at MoMA in October, 2022

 

 

 

Flier for Just Above Midtown Gallery. c. 1985. Collection Linda Goode Bryant, New York

They say if you remember the 60s & 70s in NYC, you weren’t really there. With that it mind, The Museum of Modern Art will refresh our memories with the exhibition, Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present, on view from October 9, 2022, through February 18, 2023.

It will be the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on Just Above Midtown (JAM), an art gallery and self-described laboratory for artists, located at 50 West 57th Street, with a focus on African Americans and people of color, which was led by Linda Goode Bryant from 1974 until 1986.

Still from video footage in the JAM Records featuring Randy Williams, Marquita Pool-Eckert, and David Hammons with Jorge Luis Rodriguez’s Circulo con cuatro esquinas (Circle with Four Corners) (1976), in Rodriguez’s exhibition Circulos, Just Above Midtown, Fifty-Seventh Street, 1976. Collection Linda Goode Bryant, New York

Inspired by the infamous readymades of French artist Marcel Duchamp, Jorge Luis  installed the metal hoop in the gallery, placing it against the walls at an angle. Using light and shadow, the optical illusion of the “four corners” referenced in the title of the work it produced. Thus, the found object was integrated seamlessly into the circular theme of the exhibition. The artist later donated the readymade to the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1981.

Artist Jorge Luis Rodriguez, Circle With Four Corners, 1978 in exhibition at Just Above Midtown Gallery, 1978. Image courtesy of the artist.

Initially located in the heart of New York’s major commercial gallery district, JAM was founded by Linda Goode Bryant with the explicit purpose of “being in but not of the art world.” By the time JAM closed its doors, it had established itself as one of the most vibrant and influential alternative art spaces in New York, embracing an expansive idea of Black art that included Conceptual art and work by those living outside of New York, organizing path-making exhibitions that thematized the idea of mixture in art and society, and fostering critiques of the commercialization of art.

David Hammons (left) and Suzette Wright (center) at the Body Print-In held in conjunction with Hammons’s exhibition Greasy Bags and Barbeque Bones, Philip Yenawine’s home, 1975. Photograph by Jeff Morgan. Courtesy David Hammons. Collection Linda Goode Bryant, New York

JAM’s legacy continues today through the work of artists it supported early in their careers, such as David Hammons, Butch Morris, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, among many others, and through the training it provided to anyone who was keen to learn about art. The MoMA exhibition will highlight works previously shown at JAM in a wide range of mediums. Archival material and artist interventions will contextualize the experimental ethos that defined the gallery. In addition to the exhibition, the project will include an exhibition catalogue, performances, screenings, and public programs.

Barbara Mitchell (center right) and Tyrone Mitchell (far right) at the opening of the exhibition Synthesis, November 18, 1974. Photograph by Camille Billops. Courtesy the Hatch-Billops Collection, New York & MoMA

JAM’s founder, Linda Goode Bryant, worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem before founding Just Above Midtown at age 23. After closing the gallery, Goode Bryant dedicated herself to filmmaking, directing the critically acclaimed documentary Flag Wars (2003) with Laura Poitras. In 2009, Goode Bryant started Project Eats, an urban farming initiative for Black and Brown communities in New York City that, like JAM, uses existing resources to provide cultural sustenance.

Linda Goode Bryant and Janet Olivia Henry (obscured) at Just Above Midtown, Fifty-Seventh Street, December 1974. Photograph by Camille Billops. Courtesy the Hatch-Billops Collection, New York

Thomas J. Lax explains, “This exhibition acknowledges Just Above Midtown as the efflorescent space that modeled how art and the relationships art fosters could respond to a society in crisis. This ambitious project not only historicizes JAM’s importance, but also underscores its relevance in the present.”

Randy Williams. L’art abstrait. 1977. Wood, canvas, book, book cover, plexiglass, wire, metal bolts, and lottery ticket, 24 × 41 × 5 in. (61 × 104.1 × 12.7 cm). Courtesy the artist. Photo: Mark Liflander

Sponsorship ~ Major funding for the exhibition is provided by the Leontine S. and Cornell G. Ebers Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.

Palmer Hayden (American, 1890–1973). The Subway. c. 1941. Oil on canvas. 30 × 26 in. (76.2 × 66 cm). The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection

The exhibition is organized by Thomas J. Lax, Curator, with Lilia Rocio Taboada, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance, in collaboration with Linda Goode Bryant. With thanks to Marielle Ingram and Argyro Nicolaou.

David Hammons. Untitled. 1976. Grease and pigment on paper. 29 × 23 in. (74 × 58.4 cm). © David Hammons. Hudgins Family Collection, New York

Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present will be on view from October 9, 2022 through February 18, 2023 across the third floor of the Edward Steichen Galleries at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) located at 11 West 53rd Street, NYC.

Related events will include:

Member Previews: Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present on Thursday, October 6th, Friday, October 7th, and Saturday, October 8th from 10:30am to 5:30pm.

A JAM Artist Party on Thursday November 3rd from 7:00 to 9:30pm at MoMA

Senga Nengudi performing Air Propo at JAM, 1981. Courtesy Senga Nengudi and Lévy Gorvy.

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Taking a look at David Hammons Permanent Installation, ‘Days End,’ in Hudson River Park + a look-back at rarely seen works by Hammons at The Drawing Center (2021).

The Shed reopened in 2021 after COVID-19 with the exhibition, Howardena Pindell: rope/Fire/Water.

Take a look-back at Jorge Luis Rodriguez, the first Percent for Art artist and his installation entitled ‘Growth’ in 1985.

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We can’t close without a mention of the exhibition, Galleries in the Groove: Three Visionary Dealers, 1960s-80s, which was on view at Whitechapel Gallery in London, UK, featuring Linda Goode Bryant and her work at Just Above Midtown Gallery, NYC.

Take a look back at the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition, Studio 54: Night Magic, just a few blocks away from JAM during the 1970s.

Looking forward to the completion of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

 

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