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STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM UNVEILS “FREESTYLE,” AND NEW SELF

It was a little over a year ago that the Studio Museum in Harlem brought in new director Lowery Stokes Sims, former curator of twentieth-century art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and deputy director Thelma Golden, previously a curator at the Whitney Museum, to revitalize the thirty-two-year-old institution. The results have finally been revealed with a major exhibition and a new look for the museum. “Freestyle,” which takes up the entire museum, presents new work by twenty-eight young black artists, including Laylah Ali, Rico Gaston, Kojo Griffin, Julie Mehretu, and Kori Newkirk.

The show’s opening coincides with the unveiling of the new 125th Street facade, the latest development in the museum’s ongoing renovation and expansion started in 1998, and a symbolic new beginning for the institution. But not all the anticipation for the show is limited to the museum: Much of the attention may fall on Golden herself. The art world was stunned in 1998 when she resigned from her Whitney post at a time when she was expected to organize the 2000 Biennial. The exhibition is almost sure to draw comparisons to “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” the controversial show Golden organized for the Whitney in 1994, a comparison she considers “unfortunate.” “It just shows the narrow collapsing of distinctions in the mainstream art world on the subject of race,” says Golden. “‘Black Male’ was a theoretical debate addressing the public dialogue going on at that time, while ‘Freestyle’ is a wide-ranging survey of young artists. ‘Black Male’ was not a fun show. ‘Freestyle’ is.”

“Freestyle” is on view April 28 through June 24, 2001.

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