This delicately carved wood bowl was created by a Lenape (Delaware) artist in the early 19th century. A brass plate covering a large crack on one side shows where the owner repaired it, indicating it was a treasured item likely passed down from generation to generation. Forced migration and assimilation of Native people by European colonizers obscured the cultural vibrancy of historic Indigenous artistic practices like the ones that make this bowl unique, from the small faces carved in relief to the surface smoothed by years of use.
This Lenapehoking display is the first in a number of recently reinstalled spaces in the Museum’s American Art galleries that explore the diversity, changing perceptions, and narratives that define this land and its histories.
Delaware artist. Bowl, early 19th century. Wood, brass. Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.161. Creative Commons-BY
Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s A QUESTION IS A SENTENCE DESIGNED TO ELICIT A RESPONSE. TODAY, WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE SLOPPY FUTURE HOLDS was commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum in 2018 for the vast space of the interior brick arcade, an under-utilized transitional area at the Museum’s entrance. The work returned to this space as part of her recent installation ARE WE READING CLOSELY and will remain on view through April.
The four vinyl banners magnify subtle yet provocative questions regarding assumptions and anxieties around social progress, especially the fallacy that the future will inevitably be better than the past. According to the artist, the work is “inspired by attempts to locate the future of self, community, and nations in an increasingly uncertain world.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed (born East Palo Alto, California, 1985) A QUESTION IS A SENTENCE DESIGNED TO⠀ELICIT A RESPONSE. TODAY, WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE SLOPPY FUTURE HOLDS, 2018. Textile. Courtesy of the artist. Installation photo: Jonathan Dorado
We made an exception to our “no touching the art” rule for @berniesanders since he is the art. See the few lucky visitors that got to meet him while he was checking off his Inauguration day to-do list.
Photos by: @ashleymlands @dafonin @LadySta48470651 @dapperq @bweesdad #mybkm
In yesterday’s Inauguration ceremonies, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden selected Robert S. Duncanson’s Landscape with Rainbow (1859), on loan from @americanartmuseum , as the Inaugural Gift displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Among the first African American artists to achieve national and international acclaim, Duncanson was hailed in the nineteenth century as the “best landscape painter in the West.”
A similar work by Duncanson was recently acquired for the Brooklyn Museum collection through a generous gift by Charlynn and Warren Goins in honor of the Council for African American Art. Painted in the tumultuous years preceding the Civil War, this classically-inspired pastoral scene presents an Arcadian vision of the American landscape. A deliberate and symbolic choice on the part of the new administration, Duncanson’s imagery provides a resounding message of renewal, unity, and hope.
Posted by Margarita Karasoulas
Robert Seldon Duncanson (American, 1821-1872). Copy after Thomas Cole’s “Dream of Arcadia”, 1852. Oil on canvas. Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins, 2020.13.1.
In a longheld American tradition, people across the country and beyond tune in to the 59th Presidential Inauguration. This print by Winslow Homer depicts the Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President on March 4, 1861. Today, our President-Elect and Vice President-Elect take their oaths of office. It’s a historic day, and it’s a day that demands reflection. Throughout the day, we’re supporting our staff through virtual yoga classes and conversations around art as a way to take care and comfort in our community and reflect on what this day means to us. What does this historic day mean to you?⠀
Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910). The Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, at the Capitol, Washington, March 4, 1861, 1861. Wood engraving. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Harvey Isbitts, 1998.105.52
At Brooklyn Museum we view Martin Luther King Jr. Day as “a day on, not a day off,” and each year we honor both MLK Jr.’s legacy and the history of the holiday as a day of service. Photographer Consuelo Kanaga, who participated in and documented the civil rights movement, captured this image of Ray Robison, an activist who joined the March on Washington and heard King’s famous speech. This image was used as part of our first Day of Action workshop to focus on the ways activism doesn’t always look like a protest—it can be something like an artwork, or an act of service.
How are you committing to racial justice today, this month, this year? What actions can you take in your neighborhood, your workplace, and your other spheres of influence? Not sure where to start? There is still space available for this year’s Day of Action—register now!
Consuelo Kanaga (American, 1894-1978). Ray Robinson, Albany, Georgia, 1963. Gelatin silver photograph. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Wallace B. Putnam from the Estate of Consuelo Kanaga, 82.65.400
Welcome to Lenapehoking. Visitors will notice a new installation at the entrance of our American Art galleries that recognizes the Brooklyn Museum’s location on Lenapehoking—the ancestral homeland of the Lenape (Delaware) people. Developed in consultation with Lenape leaders, the artworks on view foreground the original inhabitants of what is today known as Brooklyn and the Lenape people’s histories of cultural expression, migration, and resilience.
This display is the first in a number of recently reinstalled spaces in the Museum’s American Art galleries that explore the diversity, changing perceptions, and narratives that define this land and its histories.
Who else is really proud of themselves for making it through the second week of 2021? 🙋 Make sure to reward yourself by meditating with some art this weekend! We promise your soul will thank you for it. And while you’re there, don’t forget to tag your photos with #mybkm for a chance to be featured next!
Photos by recent visitors @pylog @artopener @silverlxo @mor.melanin @xinyu.__.wu @jadenwestgrant @mgyoungphotography @beckwhattheheck on IG.
So much has happened in our world, our city, and our beloved Museum over the past year. While 2020 brought tremendous challenges, it was the events of January 6—when we witnessed our nation’s seat of democracy desecrated by a violent mob committed to upholding the lie of white supremacy—that underscored the enormous work ahead.
Many searing images of rioters streaming through the historic halls of the Capitol building were captured against the backdrop of large-scale American history paintings depicting scenes of our nation’s founding, some telling glorified stories of our often-violent past. One painting seen in the background was Robert Walter Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims, which portrays pilgrims setting sail from Europe for North America. (A smaller version of this painting is in the Museum’s collection.) In the upper-left corner is a rainbow, a symbol of beauty and hope—the hope for a new life of freedom and opportunity. While Weir’s painting tells the story of the victors and not the oppressed, the official albeit false story, we hold strongly to that idea of hope. It is resoundingly clear that we must reckon with the great divisions that exist in our country, and we must work hard for change and justice. To move forward with hope in this new year, we look for inspiration to our mission to contribute to a more connected and empathetic world.
In 2020, we learned much that will help us on our path forward. We learned what it means to come together as a team to support one another. We learned new ways to fulfill our mission by being of service to our neighbors and community. And we learned how to reach out virtually to youth and our public schools to ignite the imagination and spirit. We were again reminded of the importance of art to bring people of diverse backgrounds together for shared learning and conversation, as well as how art can be an essential tool for rewriting dominant narratives. That’s why I’m excited for this year’s exhibitions, including Lorraine O'Grady’s long overdue retrospective, our vibrant KAWS survey, and particularly our collection offerings, such as the first phase of a reinstallation of our American art galleries that turns traditional historical narratives on their head.
Inspired that the Museum’s plaza served as the setting for important marches and rallies that called for greater accountability to social justice, and knowing that we desperately need more shared civic spaces in which to respectfully gather, create, share, and celebrate, we will continue to use our open spaces in the coming year. We are particularly pleased that Nick Cave’s TRUTH BE TOLD public art installation is coming to the Brooklyn Museum this spring. It’s a powerful message at any time, but especially in these times.
As we think about what 2021 holds, I’m encouraged by the knowledge that our Museum will speak truths and work for change. And I’m grateful you are there to participate in our journey.
Shelby White and Leon Levy Director
Robert Walter Weir (American, 1803–1889). Embarkation of the Pilgrims (detail), 1857. Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum; A. Augustus Healy Fund and Healy Purchase Fund B, 75.188. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)
There is a crystal bowl on the table that is filled with molasses —or, for short, ‘lasses–and she has some of it on her spoon. She looks in our direction with a playful smile, perhaps at us or at someone else who stands looking at her. Whoever it is has perhaps implied they’re about to kiss her; perhaps her response is the same as the title of the painting: Kiss me and you’ll kiss the ‘lasses. What might she mean by this phrase?
Notice the way the woman is dressed, her surroundings, and what she is doing. Where does this scene take place? What was the woman doing before we interrupted her? What time of year might this be? The arched top of the painting suggests we are standing in a doorway, and interior furniture and decor suggests the scene takes place in the nineteenth century;, in fact, this painting dates from 1856. On the table near the woman, there are various pieces of kitchen equipment. The cherries, raspberries, grapes, pineapples, and pears—not to mention the woman’s own short-sleeved dress—suggest that this moment is taking place in the summer. Notice that in the woman’s right hand there are peelings from a piece of fruit she has been slicing—it is likely that she is making fruit preserves for the winter months ahead. Her clothes and jewelry suggest that this woman is the “lady of the house”—the wife of the head of the household.
Notice the open door leading to a darkened room on the upper left. There is a small table with a tablecloth, some comfortable chairs, and an oval portrait on the wall. Perhaps the portrait is of the woman standing before us. If you look closely, you can see that the woman in the portrait has a similar hairdo.
This is a genre painting, or a painting of everyday activities that shows a “slice of life.”. Genre paintings were quite popular in the mid-nineteenth century. Women in genre paintings were often depicted doing “woman’s work,” and the creator of this painting, Lily Martin Spencer, has injected this subject of this work with the agency to look back at us, tease us, perhaps even threaten us with the molasses on her spoon. Middle and upper-class women were the primary purchasers of paintings as part of their responsibility for decorating the home in this time period. Many enjoyed Spencer’s work because it reflected their own world, but with a bit of fun and humor. Spencer herself was a professional painter, mother of eight and a wife, and the sole breadwinner for her family. Her husband helped by stretching canvases, making frames, and taking care of the household. They were a very atypical mid-nineteenth century family.
Think about your daily activities. What might a genre painter depict you doing? What would you want to tell the viewer? Share your reflections on what such a genre painting in 2021 might depict in the replies.
Lilly Martin Spencer (American, born England, 1822-1902). Kiss Me and You’ll Kiss the ‘Lasses, 1856. Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 70.26
Learn about some exciting approaches to inventing and reinventing the museum on Thursday, January 14 with two online conversations in celebration of András Szántó’s book The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues. Join Szántó in conversation with Sandra Jackson-Dumont of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Marie-Cécile Zinsou of Benin’s Zinsou Foundation. Then, our own director Anne Pasternak speaks with museum directors Victoria Noorthoorn of Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires and Franklin Sirmans of Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Galvanized by recent calls for racial justice, Museum curators have recently reinstalled parts of our American Art galleries to address the differing visions of land, abolition, labor, and identity in the United States. The first phase of a multiyear project, the reinstallation focuses on three galleries, with works that span from 4000 B.C.E. to the present, and challenges us to look closely and acknowledge this country’s history. In dialogue with one another, these artworks highlight the creative ways Indigenous peoples, European settlers, and African Americans have expressed themselves, and show how diverse cultural voices adapt, evolve, and survive.
Sunday January 10 is your last chance to experience “Are You Reading Closely?” a new work by Kameelah Janan Rasheed and the first artwork to grace the Brooklyn Museum’s historic columned facade. Whether viewed at street level, or from atop the pavilion bridge, or in high-res images available on our website, this four-part artwork encourages close looking and reading in its conjunctions and kinships of words, phrases, and images, connected at times through schematic lines.
Thwarting the typically clear-cut, promotional context of the space, which usually houses banners promoting exhibitions, Rasheed’s Xerox-based work vibrates with snippets of found text accumulating into poetry, glimpses of images from the artist’s collection of vernacular photographs of Black life, and a sense of unfinished, in-process thinking and making. In one detail, a Black woman elder shakes a Polaroid photograph, the image capturing her younger companion’s excitement, as well as the fugitive yet emergent moment in the picture-making process.
In a time when hypervisibility and hyperproductivity create exhausting patterns of thought and action, Rasheed presents an unfinished yet intentional path forward for an internal process of reading with care: “reading, remembering, research, resistance, returning.”
This weekend is your very last chance to visit a fan favorite of ours, Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks. Make sure to stop by and bid the exhibition farewell before it closes on Sunday, January 10.
Don’t forget to tag your photos with #mybkm for a chance to be featured like recent visitors @erkuml @everette @msgigggles @caffetti_ @sherrickayvette @dancingonglass86 @amonaaaay @immadisonblack @dominthematrix #JeffreyGibsonBKM
Through the combination of collection objects and his own work, artist Jeffrey Gibson’s When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks encourages visitors to rethink long-held preconceptions about “Native American art” and notions of monolithic cultural identity. For centuries, museums and other educational and cultural institutions have collected art and recounted the stories of communities and cultures without their direct input. In a decisive break with this practice, the Brooklyn Museum invited Gibson to tell his own story as an artist of Native American descent, through his work and investigation of the museum’s holdings as well as his commentaries and those co-authored with historian Dr. Christian Ayne Crouch. Visually striking and intellectually provocative, When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks is an original and innovative project: inviting a more expansive narrative that includes and integrates the histories of Indigenous people and challenging visitors to reconsider their assumptions of what Native American art can be.
Installation details and views: Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks, Brooklyn Museum, February 14, 2020 - January 10, 2021 #JeffreyGibsonBKM
After yesterday’s riots in our nation’s Capital, our minds return to Ed Ruscha’s painting OUR FLAG, a powerful reflection on the precarious nature of our democracy. On view during last fall’s election season, the feelings of fragility and uncertainty evoked in Ruscha’s work were sadly reinforced by yesterday’s efforts to overthrow and undermine the basic principles of our democracy—a peaceful transfer of power. As many of us continue to unpack what occurred, we remind ourselves of the importance to rest and reflect in community during tonight’s Art & Empathy: Community Care Through Art. This ongoing program centers our commitment to strengthening dialogue across differences, and providing a platform for individual and collective healing. Though reservations for tonight’s session are closed, we hope you can join us for future Art & Empathy sessions, as well as other upcoming events that bring us together to learn and reflect on important issues facing our society today, such as our Virtual Teacher Workshop: MLK Day of Action on January 18.
Ed Ruscha (American, born 1937). OUR FLAG, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 72 x 138 inches. 182.9 x 350.5 cm. © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, and former public school teacher who describes herself as a “learner first.” Her exploratory approach embraces unfinished, in-process thinking over easy interpretations—or “readings”—prompting the questions: Are we reading closely? Are we reading with care? For the artist, close reading is an exercise to hone attention and engagement as well as a strategy for liberation, particularly in respect to Black experiences.
In her November artist talk at the Brooklyn Museum, Kameelah Janan Rasheed explored what it means to read closely. Rasheed cited, among other influences, an idea put forth by literary theorist Umberto Eco: Texts are filled with gaps, and readers must do the work of filling them in, taking what Eco calls “inferential walks,” to derive meaning. Rasheed’s artwork “Are You Reading Closely?” visualizes these gaps. At the top of the banner, a constellation of words and phrases float on a black background, seemingly cut out or isolated from another source. A large hand further obscures the text, blocking numerous words from view. Viewers are asked to contend both with the words on the page and with the space between them: What do these fragmented words and phrases, disconnected from their original contexts, bring to mind? How might they be related? What other words, images, and ideas come to mind as you try to connect the dots? Rasheed’s work is a reminder that all texts have holes; reading closely requires us to mind the gaps, and pay attention to how we fill them in.
Reflection by Michael Reback
Kameelah Janan Rasheed (American, born 1985). Are You Reading Closely? (detail), 2020. Vinyl. © Kameelah Janan Rasheed. (Photo: Courtesy of the artist) ⇨ Installation view [Detail], Kameelah Janan Rasheed: Are We Reading Closely? Brooklyn Museum, November 11, 2020–January 10, 2021. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado)
Largely rejected by the art world at the time, Carolee Schneemann embraced her self-determined role as the ultimate cat lady, after learning from years of experience that it often takes the art world decades to catch up with transgressive women artists. Schneemann’s series Infinity Kisses began in 1981 and captures her cat Vesper’s morning ritual of giving her a kiss. This series proposes an interspecies intimacy, one that the artist nurtured with generations of cats in her farmhouse in upstate New York. Schneemann extended her career-long exploration of taboo sensuality into a series of blurry images that capture fleeting moments of hedonistic contact with a being she loved.
Posted by Christian Reeder
Carolee Schneemann (American, 1939-2019). Infinity Kisses II, 1990-1998. Chromogenic photograph, Each sheet: 60 × 40 in. (152.4 × 101.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marc Routh by arrangement with the Remy-Toledo Gallery, 2005.60a-b. © artist or artist’s estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)