“Head #12 (floor plan)” by Derrick Adams, on view at "Black Eye," a new group show curated by Nicola Vassell. Courtesy of Jack Tilton Gallery

On View | A Group Show in TriBeCa Explores Black Identity Today

Article re-posted from New York Times  5/1/2014

The curator Nicola Vassell has a blue-chip art-world pedigree as a former director at both Deitch Projects and Pace. And perhaps because her gallery work positioned her in contexts where glitz and glamour are currencies of their own, media coverage of Vassell has often focused on her taste and style — her former modeling career, her wardrobe, the social goings-on at her SoHo loft. But Vassell has lately gone independent — she left Pace in 2012 to found Concept NV, which she describes as an art ideation lab — and it’s clear she’s got more pressing social concerns on her mind. “Activism is important to me,” she says. “I find that sometimes the art world is too busy with its art-world view to consider that.” Her latest show, “Black Eye,” underscores the continuing need for increased diversity in a still narrow art world. The wide-ranging exhibition, which opens tomorrow night in TriBeCa, features paintings, photographs and collage by 26 emerging and established black artists, including Wangechi Mutu, Jacolby Satterwhite, Steve McQueen and Kerry James Marshall.
The curator Nicola Vassell.Fred R. Conrad/The New York TimesThe curator Nicola Vassell.
Vassell, who worked on the exhibition for two years, notes that the idea of “Black Eye” took hold around the time of the second Obama inauguration. “We all agreed that it was monumental the first time having a black president — and what it all meant to the global community,” she explains. “But the second time around was charged with a different air.” In conceiving a theme to reflect the climate of cultural and economic uncertainty, Vassell drew inspiration from “Black Male,” a seminal and controversial show organized in the 1990s by Thelma Golden, now the director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Like Golden’s “Black Male,” the title of Vassell’s show implies double entendre; it speaks to both the wounds left by racism and the freedoms afforded by seeing from the perspective of black experience. “A black eye is our true tool — it’s the thing a lot of us rely heavily on for this art world to even exist,” she explains. “But at the same time, a black eye is the document of having been bruised.”

“Black Eye” is on view May 2 – 24 at 57 Walker Street, New York;


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