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RIGHT: Wangechi Mutu, Hide 'n' Seek, Kill or Speak, 2004, Paint, ink, collage, mixed media on mylar, 48 -42 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum Purchase made possible by a gift from Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn 2004.13.3 ©Wangechi Mutu Courtesy of the artist and American Federation of Arts
(LEFT) Jordan Casteel, Kevin the Kiteman, 2016. Oil on canvas 78 - 78 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition Committee 2016.37. Photo Credit: Adam Reich ©Jordan Casteel Courtesy American Federation of Arts

September 14 - December 8, 2019

Reflecting nearly 100 years of art history in America, Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem reflects the breadth of The Studio Museum's 50 years of supporting and incubating artists of African descent. The exhibition will fill all four of the main floor KIA galleries.

The exhibition features a diverse array of works created by artists of African descent from the 1920s to present. Featuring 91 works from The Studio Museum's permanent collection, this unique exhibition illuminates the museum's unparalleled impact on the art world and the community of Harlem. The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and The Studio Museum in Harlem, and is touring the country while the museum completes its new building. The KIA is the only Midwest stop for this tour, with support from Art Bridges.

The exhibition reflects the caliber of artists that The Studio Museum has exhibited, collected, and supported, in part through its formative Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program. One of the museum's founding initiatives (which informs the 'Studio' in the organization's name), the AIR program was the brainchild of William T. Williams, whose work is included in Black Refractions. The show also features Elizabeth Catlett, Thornton Dial, Barkley Hendricks, Kori Newkirk, Norman Lewis, Julie Mehretu, Howardena Pindell, and Kehinde Wiley -- known for his portrait of President Barack Obama, now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Black Refractions creates opportunities for dialogue about how artists respond to the artistic and social happenings of their time, while also expanding our understanding of American, modern and contemporary art. The exhibition addresses themes connected to Kalamazoo and the nation like class, identity, socio-economic power & status, and social justice. Black Refractions, together with Resilience and Where We Stand, will demonstrate the curiosity and virtuosity of artists who encourage new ways of seeing, understanding, and talking about art, society, and the world.


The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts believes the visual arts are for everyone, and that they inspire, transform, and fulfill. Since 1924, the private nonprofit organization has presented opportunities to the community and visitors from around the world to enjoy and create art. The museum holds more than 5,000 fine artworks in its collection; presents touring and collection exhibitions in 10 galleries; offers four terms of art classes at the Kirk Newman Art School; and houses the KIA Gallery Shop, featuring work by area artists and international artisans.

Exhibition Presenting Sponsor:
The Stryker Johnston Foundation

Lead sponsors: ArtBridges, The Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, Stryker, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Michigan Humanities Council, and Tendaji

Community co-sponsors: Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Black Arts & Cultural Center, Bronson, Discover Kalamazoo, Greenleaf Trust, Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Old National Bank, Stryker.

With support from: Kalamazoo Arts Collaborative, Judith & Sherman Van Solkema, Estate of Muriel and David Gregg, Estate of Martha Parfet

Media sponsor: WGVU


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Norman Lewis, Bonfire, 1962, oil on canvas. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Gift of the Estate of Norman Lewis ©Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY


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Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem was curated by Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection, at the Studio Museum. This exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Major support for Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem provided by Art Bridges. Support for the accompanying publication provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.
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