The Shed reopened this month with a powerful and timely exhibition, Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, an exhibition about the brutality of racism and the healing power of art, with Free tickets to the public through October 31st.
For her solo exhibition at The Shed, Howardena Pindell will present Rope/Fire/Water, her first video in 25 years and a project unrealized by the artist since the 1970s that The Shed commissioned. In this powerful work, Pindell recounts personal anecdotes and anthropological and historical data related to lynchings and racist attacks in the United States. She accompanies this voice-over with archival photos of lynchings and the historic Birmingham, Alabama, Children’s Crusade, a series of nonviolent protests carried out by young people in May 1963.
This video bookends the artist’s searing exploration of racial microaggressions in her landmark video Free, White and 21 (1980), in which she embodied several characters including a Black everywoman and an argumentative white woman. To accompany Rope/Fire/Water, Pindell has created two new thematic paintings, Columbus (2020) and Four Little Girls (2020), each an homage to the victims of race-based violence in this country and the lasting effects of imperialism on a global scale. These paintings are surrounded by large-scale abstract works that give visitors space to process the information in the video and thematic paintings, just as the artist puts her mind at ease after engaging with emotionally fraught material through the methodical process of creating such textured and layered canvases as Plankton Lace #1 (2020). Taken together, these works offer hope for a less violent future by educating viewers about our painful history while providing comfort in its aftermath.
Howardena Pindell (b. 1943, Philadelphia, PA) works across painting and film. She is an activist, critic, and professor who spent over a decade working at the Museum of Modern Art as one of the institution’s first Black curators. In 1972, she was a founding member of the pioneering, women-led A.I.R. Gallery and continues to teach at the State University of New York at Stony Brook as a distinguished professor. Largely known for her monumentally scaled abstract canvases, Pindell has expanded the definition of what abstract painting can be through her inclusion of glitter, paper circles made with hole punches, and the layering of mixed media and scent.
Works in this exhibition include images and descriptions depicting racial violence, including lynching. An educator is available in the gallery if you would like to discuss the work. Please look for the staff member with a badge that reads, “Let’s talk about the art.”
Howardena Pindell: rope/Fire/Water will be on view from October 16, 2020 through April 11, 2021 at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street, in Hudson Yards, NYC.
Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water is organized by Adeze Wilford, Assistant Curator. Exhibition management by Jesse Hamerman, Director of Exhibitions, Heather Reyes, Exhibitions Producer, and Elizabeth Berridge, Exhibitions Assistant.