"Radical Presence" chronicles the development of Black performance in contemporary art beginning with fluxus and conceptual art in the 1960s and extending to the present. While this tradition has previously been contextualized from the perspective of theater and popular culture, its prevalence in visual art has gone largely unexamined until recently. Organized and first presented by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, "Radical Presence" was co-presented in New York City by The Studio Museum in Harlem and New York University's Grey Art Gallery. The final opportunity to view the exhibition will be at the Walker. The showing opens July 24 and runs through Jan. 4, 2015 in the Target and Friedman galleries.
The July 24 launch, a Target Free Thursday Night, with live performances at the Walker by contributing artists Senga Nengudi, Pope.L and Jacolby Satterwhite. Performances continue on Saturday, July 26 with Maren Hassinger and Jamal Cyrus, in addition to a panel discussion hosted by organizing curator Valerie Cassel Oliver from the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and contributing artists Adam Pendleton, Satterwhite, and Xaviera Simmons that addresses the role of performance in their larger artistic practice.
A range of performances and events continue beyond the opening weekend and throughout the run of the exhibition. Beginning in September, the Walker and The Bindery Projects will host Theaster Gates' "See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court" (2012), while additional performances include Benjamin Patterson's "Activation of Pond" (1962), a performance lecture by Coco Fusco, and Trenton Doyle Hancock's "Devotion" (2013).
Featuring more than 100 works by some 36 artists, "Radical Presence" includes video and photo documentation of performances, scores and installations, interactive works and artworks created as a result of performance actions, presenting a rich and complex look at this important facet of contemporary art.
'"Radical Presence' is a risk-taking exhibition that looks at the vitality of performance-based works by Black artists from the United States and the Caribbean over several decades and across generations," said Olga Viso, executive director of the Walker. "Engaging works where the performer is often the medium and subject, the exhibition is both provocative and captivating, as it addresses the limits of representation of the Black body and elicits timely reflection on American culture and identity."
"From seminal works by such highly influential artists as Coco Fusco, Lorraine O'Grady, Pope.L and David Hammons to essential new voices like Theaster Gates, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Xaviera Simmons, 'Radical Presence' brings together artists from across generations that push the boundaries of performance," said Fionn Meade, the Walker's senior curator of cross-disciplinary platforms. "Ranging from intimate acts done solely for the camera to participatory installations and the tracing of overtly public gestures of celebration and resistance, the Walker is thrilled to welcome such a dynamic and far-ranging exploration."
Works on view in "Radical Presence" include "Hopes and Dreams: Gestures of Demonstration" (2006-2007), a photographic series by Carrie Mae Weems, "Pond" (1962), a performance score conceived and activated by Benjamin Patterson, documentation of Lorraine O'Grady's performance, "Mlle, Bourgeoise Noire" (1980-1983), "Eating the Wall Street Journal" (2000) by Pope.L, a sculpture and video installation, "Say It Loud" (2004) by Satch Hoyt, a participatory sculpture meant to be activated by gallery visitors and documentation of Jamal Cyrus' performance "Texas Fried Tenor" from the series "Learning to Work the Saxophone" (2012).