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Press ReleasesRadical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, Groundbreaking Survey From 1960s to Present, Opens at The Walker Art Center in July 2014

Range of Performances and Events to Accompany the Exhibition

MINNEAPOLIS, April 14 2014—The Walker Art Center is pleased to present the groundbreaking survey Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, on view July 24, 2014 through January 4, 2015 in the Target and Friedman galleries. Radical Presence chronicles the emergence and development of black performance art beginning with Fluxus and conceptual art in the 1960s, through the 1980s, and up to present-day practices, providing a critical framework for the history of black performance tradition. While this tradition has previously been contextualized from the theater perspective, its prevalence in visual art has gone largely unexamined until now. 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.

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.” Artists include: Derrick Adams, Papo Colo, Coco Fusco, Theaster Gates, Ulysses S. Jenkins, Kalup Linzy, Jayson Musson aka Hennessy Youngman, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Benjamin Patterson, Adam Pendleton, Pope.L, Jacolby Satterwhite, Dread Scott, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others.

“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, a photographic series by Carrie Mae Weems (2006-07)

Pond, a performance score conceived and activated by Benjamin Patterson (1962)

Documentation of Lorraine O’Grady’s performance Mlle Bourgeois Noire (1980-83)

Eating the Wall Street Journal by Pope.L, a sculpture and video installation (2000)

Say It Loud by Satch Hoyt, a sculptural platform of books, metal staircase, microphone, speakers and sound (2004)

Documentation of Jamal Cyrus’ performance Texas Fried Tenor from the series Learning to Work the Saxophone (2012)

See, Sit, Sup, Sing: Holding Court by Theaster Gates (2012)

Untitled (Body Print) by David Hammons, comprised of body print and mixed media on paper, (1975); and Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983)

Last Trumpet by Terry Adkins, comprised of four brass musical instruments (1995)


A dynamic range of performances (both new and activating works within the exhibition), actions, and discussions will accompany the Walker’s presentation. This includes the Target Free Thursday Night opening with performances by Maren Hassinger, Pope.L, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Senga Nengudi, and the Opening Day Dialogue featuring exhibition curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and contributing artists Adam Pendleton and Xaviera Simmons. Please visit walkerart.org for updated performance and event information.


Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s fully illustrated catalogue that accompanies the exhibition reflects the breadth and scope of the contributions of black artists to the field of performance art practice over fifty years. The publication includes an essay by exhibition curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, we well as contributions by Franklin Sirmans, Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Naomi Beckwith, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Yona Backer, Founding Partner and Executive Director, Third Streaming, New York; Tavia Nyong’o, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University; and photographer/performance artist Clifford Owens. The catalogue also includes a chronology of black performance art since 1960; an exhibition checklist; color reproductions of featured works; a general bibliography; and artists’ biographies. ($39.95, Paperback, DAP)


Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art is organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The exhibition is supported by generous grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the patrons, benefactors and donors to CAMH’s Major Exhibition Fund. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Curator: Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Walker coordinating curator: Fionn Meade, Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms.

Lorraine O’Grady Untitled (Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire Leaves the New Museum), 1980-83