Melvin Smith & Rose Smith: Recollections of Rondo to Open at Fort Gansevoort in November




Rose Smith, Journey to Minnesota,, 2008; Oil on canvas, 48 x 96 inches. © Rose Smith. courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York

Beginning November 16, 2023, Fort Gansevoort will present Recollections of Rondo, its first exhibition with the visionary Minnesota-based artist couple Melvin Smith and Rose Smith. This presentation features a selection of key works from the vast, ongoing, collaborative project the Smiths refer to as Rondo, which consists of painted portraits made by Rose, and collages of urban scenes along with architectural sculptures made by Melvin. Initiated in the 1990s, Rondo documents the artists’ memories of civic life in their vibrant Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota as it existed prior to being bulldozed in the 1960s for construction of the Interstate 94 highway. Now both in their 80s, Rose and Melvin have focused for three decades on a unique shared artistic mission to recall that lost enclave, which was the center of Black life in St. Paul and home to a number of individuals, among them Major League baseball great Dave Winfield and artist Gordon Parks, who would achieve national and international renown in their fields. Rose spent most of her youth in Rondo, while Melvin was a resident between 1963 and 1968—the neighborhood’s final years. With the construction of Interstate 94 between 1956 and 1968, the Smiths witnessed first-hand the systematic leveling of their community and its culture—the process of so-called “urban renewal” that James Baldwin dubbed “Negro Removal.”

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