The Studio Museum in Harlem announced its fall programming, kicking-off the season with Thomas J. Price: Witness, the artist’s first solo museum presentation in the United States. As part of the Studio Museum’s ongoing inHarlem initiative, the nine-foot-tall bronze sculpture entitled The Distance Within (2021) will depict a young Black man looking down at his cell phone. The large-scale artwork celebrates a familiar form rarely monumentalized within a public setting and continues the artist’s exploration of blackness and Black masculinity as it relates to presence, movement, and freedom.
Taking a closer look at the new installation, ‘Witness‘ by artist Thomas J. Price, now on view in Marcus Garvey Park located on 124th Street near Madison Avenue in East Harlem.
Above, is an excellent interview of Tom Price by Professor Paul Goodwin as part of the African Diaspora Artists in the 21st Century project. In this interview, he speaks to how and why he started creating sculptures of men.
Thomas J. Price: Witness will be on view from October 2, 2021 to October 1, 2022 in Marcus Garvey Park, on 124th Street near the Madison Avenue entrance in East Harlem, in the shadow of the historic Harlem Fire Watchtower, on the Acropolis, above. The installation is presented as part of The Studio Museum in Harlem’s series of collaborative initiatives, InHarlem, which are being undertaken while the Museum is preparing for construction of its new building designed by Adjaye Associates with Cooper Robertson.
Thomas J Price: Witness marks the British sculptor’s first US solo institutional exhibition. This nine-foot bronze figure is sited within Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and depicts a young Black man looking down at his cell phone. The form of the piece pays homage to a work titled Network that Price originally presented in the UK in 2013. Price’s large-scale figural sculptures are inspired by real people, often those who live and work in his hometown of South London, where the artist was born and raised, and currently resides today.
Price’s relationship to Harlem comes via his lived experience as a Black man looking “across the pond” from his neighborhood of Brixton to where he describes as his home’s “counterpoint.” Both historically Black neighborhoods with rich social and cultural legacies, the respective landscapes of Harlem and Brixton remain in dialogue. Thus, for Price, Harlem holds a special significance as a place the artist considers a home away from home.
Below, a few of the installation photos taken on September 29, 2021.
Located on the 124th Street entrance to Marcus Garvey Park, near Madison Avenue ~ just a few yards away from the Drummers Circle. The sculpture is also facing all the pedestrian activity on 124th Street….. #Witness
‘Witness‘ will be on view for one-year, and will witness so much of life in this part of the neighborhood, from the daily dog-walkers and joggers to the Harlem Drummers on Saturday, Black Hebrew Israelites early on Sunday mornings, African Dancers Sunday afternoons ~ yoga. Tae kwon do, and so many more of the neighborhood parties and activities that take place on that lawn in Marcus Garvey Park every day.
With Witness, the artist continues his exploration of blackness and Black masculinity at monumental scales. In this work, Price asks us to consider what is projected onto Black bodies as they move in the world and in what ways they are made monolithic via broader archetypes and stereotypes, as well as how Black bodies in the ordinary everyday are subject to extraordinary surveillance and spectatorship.
The grand size of the sculpture celebrates a familiar everyday form rarely monumentalized within a public setting. Simultaneously, the scale works to take up space, to occupy, to hold presence, to bear witness. In the artist’s words, “I want to interrogate [notions of] presence, movement, and freedom. Who do these spaces belong to? And what bodies are provided more or less autonomy to move with liberty through public [space]?”
Thomas J Price: Witness is presented as part of The Studio Museum in Harlem’s series of collaborative initiatives, inHarlem, which are being undertaken while the Museum is preparing for construction of its new building designed by Adjaye Associates with Cooper Robertson.
Thomas J Price: Witness is organized by Legacy Russell, former Associate Curator, Exhibitions (now Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen) with Yelena Keller, Curatorial Assistant, Exhibitions, and is an inHarlem project presented by The Studio Museum in Harlem in partnership with Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and NYC Parks. Thomas J Price: Witness is made possible thanks to the Open Society Foundations. Support for inHarlem provided by Citi and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Join the Conversation ~ In conjunction with Thomas J Price: Witness, the public program Studio Salon: Conversations in the Commons unpacks key themes and ideas addressed in Price’s practice through literary texts and works of art. Salon topics will include fashion, surveillance, monuments and public space, and portraiture and Black masculinity. We’ll unpack key texts through conversation and creative prompts, as well as supplementary materials for further explorations.
The first Studio Salon: Conversations in the Commons theme is “Self / Fashion.” How does clothing inform our perception of our private selves and our public presentation? How is meaning conveyed through fashion?
Join virtually on Saturday, October 23 from 12:00–2:00 pm EDT with co-facilitators danilo machado and Rikki Byrd, and special guest Antoine Gregory, to consider different modes of (self)-fashion(ing) as it intersects with race and community.
Also visit The Studio Museum in Harlem’s online exhibition What Have We Stopped Hiding?: Expanding the Walls 2021, which features work by the seventeen teen artists in the 2021 cohort of the Museum’s annual program Expanding the Walls: Making Connections Between Photography, History, and Community.
While you’re in Marcus Garvey Park, be sure to view Susan Stair: Ascending the Mountain, located on the east side of Marcus Garvey Park near 121st Street, steps leading up to the Acropolis. On the Acropolis you will find the Historic Harlem Fire Watchtower. If you are in the Park on a Saturday, enjoy the music of the Harlem Drummers in the Drummers Circle on the Madison Avenue side between 123/124th Streets.