The Permanent Collection, ‘Harlem Roots’ to Open at State Office Building in November




‘Harlem Roots’ at State Office Building

Some twenty-five years ago, Commissioner of the New York State Office of General Services, RoAnn Destito, did a walk-through at what is our current State Office Building. The building was in total disarray with no window glass in some of the space. But in the basement she found a treasure-trove of artwork that had been stacked up and left there for several years. It was the work of local artists of that day, names like Barboza, Bey, Catlett, DeCarava, Van Der Zee…….

This work is part of The New York State Harlem Art Collection’s permanent collection, and it will be on view beginning November 15 for the first time since the mid 1990s.

The artwork in this exhibition celebrate the significant contributions of the Harlem art community and is comprised of more than 100 works of art, including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and mixed-media by 65 artists. Destito has curated this exhibit so that revolving pieces of this extensive collection will be on view through the exhibition time.

“Recognizing Harlem for its rich cultural history and the influence artists and their art have in this vibrant community, New York State is pleased to return the Harlem Art Collection to its public place at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building,” Governor Cuomo said. “This exhibit celebrates the artists whose work helped elevate New York as a beacon of the art world and will serve as a tribute to their incredible contributions to the art community at-large.”

From L-R, Palmer Hayden, “The Subway”, and ‘Home Sweet Home’

Two gorgeous pieces by Palmer Hayden (1890-1973) against the east wall, ‘The Subway’ c.1941, oil on canvas and ‘Home Sweet Home‘ c. 1930, watercolor.

The exhibition includes wonderful images of U.S. Representative from New York, Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr., along with an image of Rev. Powell giving a speech in Harlem on March 23, 1963. They are Getty images, so we aren’t posting.

“We are proud of our rich culture and diversity in New York, and this new exhibit will highlight the great work of 20th century Black and Latino artists,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The ‘Harlem Roots’ artwork will celebrate our community strengths and promote inclusiveness among all New Yorkers. I encourage residents and visitors to visit the exhibit and see it firsthand at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in New York City.”

Exhibiting artists are: Anthony Barboza, Dawoud Bey, Kay Brown, Elizabeth Catlett, Ed Clark, David Cottes, Ernest Crichlow, Roy DeCarava, Louis Draper, David Hammons, Palmer Hayden, Harlan Jackson, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Valerie Maynard, Leita Mitchell, James Van Der Zee, and Hale Woodruff.

Lobby at State Office Bldg, artist, Elizabeth Catlett: Woman Figure

“The big question for me as a Black woman is how do I serve my people? What is my role?” Elizabeth Catlett.

Above, Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) Woman Figure, 1976, mahogany currently on view in the lobby of the State Office Building as part of the exhibit. “Woman Figure” blends stylized abstraction and realism to depict strength and the elegance and dignity of the African American female. As a printmake and sculptor, Catlett lived in Harlem and taught at the George Washington Carver school prior to moving to Mexico in 1946. Her work continued to be produced in solidarity with the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Artist, Valerie Maynard, 1937 ‘Ascension’ n.d. wood, currently in the lobby of the State Office Building as part of the exhibition, Harlem Roots.

“Valerie Maynard (artist sculpture above), documents the social inequalities of life as an African American ~ particularly those living in Harlem, where she was born. Inspiration for her work stems from memories in her environment and portrays the intricacies of humanity: wins, looses, and everything in-between. Maynard continues to work in set design, landscape photography, and public murals ~ notably a 2002 glass and tile mosaic, Polyrhythmics of Consciousness and Light, located near the 125th Street station in the New York Subway.”

Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Governor Cuomo has made it a priority for State agencies to make the best use of public spaces, and our recent renovation of the New York State Harlem Art Gallery and Community Room in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building provided us with a wonderful space to, once again, make this important art collection available to art and history lovers alike. The exhibit ‘Harlem Roots’ is the first of several exhibits that will feature pieces from the collection on a revolving basis over the next year.”

Harlem Roots will be on view at The State Office Building beginning November 15th, free and open to the public only on each Friday following that date, from noon to 7:00pm. The State Office Building is located at 163 West 125th Street on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Harlem.

  • Be sure to bring Government Issued ID to enter the building. And one noticeable change in policy, we may bring cameras.