A Walk Through the Studio Museum in Harlem - Hurvin Anderson: Peter’s Series 2007-2009

During the next three weeks or so, I recommend a visit to The Studio Museum in Harlem to see several exhibitions from the museum's summer season that have been carried over into the fall. Hurvin Anderson: Peter’s Series 2007-2009, the first solo U.S. museum exhibition of the work of a London-based artist born in 1965 in Birmingham, United Kingdom to parents of Jamaican descent, reveals a fresh approach to both painting and to the relationship between artist and subject. While in the museum also spend time with the works by the artist residents, Khalif Kelly, Adam Pendleton and Dawit L. Petros, and don't miss the photographs by young artists in a downstairs gallery.

Hurvin Anderson's paintings explore the space of a barbershop that served as an informal social center for Caribbean immigrants during the 1950s and the 1960s in the UK. The particular place in these paintings is an intimate shop in a small attic where the artist's father got his hair cut, and Anderson found himself drawn to the space as a way to explore his sense of identity and relationship to the Caribbean. He had once taken photographs of the shop and could refer to them for his paintings, but certainly they are used as a point of departure or inspiration rather than as a concrete reference. Mindful that the shop seemed like a private place and therefore needed to be protected rather than violated, the artist evokes the space in early canvases in the series through abstracted forms only, yet filling in partial details in another. Still, where we are is uncertain. With one of the paintings in the series, Peter's: Sequel, Anderson repaints an earlier canvas from memory. Each painting becomes a careful, tentative discovery of a place revealing itself. The last three paintings incorporate a figure in a barber's chair, thus changing the work in profound ways. No longer abstract shapes evoking a general interior, we now have a human protagonist with a story. Still, we only see the figure seated from the back, so the sense of privacy remains intact.

Anderson paints his chosen space in an effectively limited palette and with thinned coats - predominately cobalt blue for the walls, rust for the floors and flat white for the ceiling. The shapes take on different textures. Over the course of the series, the artistic explorations come to feel like analogies for remembering a particular time and space. And that's what they are. Anderson's work has been compared to that of Luc Tuymans (review from 2008 on this website) and Peter Doig, the latter his art teacher in the 1990s. This series, while somewhat academic in its presentation and conception, holds out the hope that Anderson's artistically adept incursions into meaningful personal spaces can surpass the intellectual vamping that sometimes characterizes other artists.

Through October 25, 2009. See the museum's website for more on current and future exhibitions.


30 Seconds off an Inch
November 12, 2009-March 13, 2010
Wardell Milan: Drawings of Harlem
November 12, 2009–March 13, 2010

The Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10012

Hours: Wednesday through Friday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM
; Saturday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM; 
Sunday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM. Admission: Suggested donation:
 Adults $7.00;
 Seniors and students (with valid id) $3; Free for members and children under 12.

Image of The Studio Museum in Harlem by Walking Off the Big Apple from September 24, 2009. 


Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

As many times as I've been to New York, I haven't made it to Harlem yet. Well, technically I have, I guess--I've been to the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. But it's been popping up on my radar a lot lately. Think I'll have to get there.

Are you familiar with Harlem + Bespoke, Teri? Blogger Ulysses lives there and writes lovingly and knowledgeably about it. I think the two of you would have lots of stories to swap.

harlemcondolife said...

Enjoyed reading your post about The Studio Museum in Harlem. It's a great place to visit!

Anton Deque said...

I very much enjoyed our trip to Harlem when last in New York. We were fortunate to have the opportunity of a tour of famous The Apollo theatre (tagging along with a school party and their tutors). Then lunch at Sylvia's. Delightful.