April 2, 2021
Parallels & Peripheries / Practice and Presence
PARALLELS & PERIPHERIESis an ongoing exhibition series curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah investigating how contemporary artists create work constructed from narratives, myths, experiences, and memories that shape personal, political, and societal identities. For this edition of the exhibition, the inquiry seeks to explore how BIPOC artists are cultivating dynamic artistic practices designed to amplify perspectives and points of view that historically have pushed to the margins.
PARALLELS & PERIPHERIES: Practice + Presenceis the fifth iteration of the series focused on how the New York Academy of Art’s BIPOC artistic community (i.e. students, faculty, alumni, and visiting critics) uses their practice and platform to assert their presence within the world while attempting to negotiate issues of race, identity, visibility, and invisibility in a time of social volatility. Moreover, PARALLELS & PERIPHERIES: Practice + Presence intends to use the exhibition as a forum for unpacking the question of what happens when the power dynamics between “center” and “periphery” shift?
A PERIPHERAL VIEW
As a Black artist studying at the New York Academy of Art, I often asked myself “Where do I fit?” And more strongly, “Do I even belong here?” Black artists in predominately white institutions often experience a scarcity of faces like our own. We are also immersed in a history of art that excludes our ancestors from the conversation or curriculum. It can get exhausting, but there comes a time when you have to push back and create space for yourself.
It took some time, but I eventually learned how to own the space I occupied, even though it was not originally created with me in mind. I surrounded myself with things that I found inspirational, I researched Black artists who informed my work, I invited talented Black artists and critics into my studio to talk about my work, and I reached out to like-minded individuals to create a support system that became my art community. Taking ownership of one’s space is essential to navigating a society that has always limited access for people of color. The BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) boldly does so on a daily basis. We take ownership of our narratives, affirming that we see each other, ourselves, and create space for one another in the midst of unfamiliar and sometimes even hostile territory. We are here and, therefore, we belong.
This exhibition is a celebration of the wonderful, dynamic BIPOC talent that has come through the New York Academy of Art. Each of us has had unique experiences, creates different work, and has diverse stories worth telling and sharing. So now we are telling those stories.
Robyn Gibson MFA 2018