New York

Harlem ’69

The Studio Museum in Harlem

Fifty-three artists were represented in the Harlem Artists ’69 show at The Studio Museum in Harlem, all by at least two works. Painting predominated heavily over sculpture. Naturally, as the show was so large, styles ranged considerably. Abstract work was rare, and African influence not large, though present in Dawson, Earley, Overstreet, and Carl Smith.

George C. Carter’s constructions mix whimsy and savage caricature. His fine use of the charged, treasured place (American Dream) recalls Cornell, or the vulgar dolls of Marisol. Weekend Triptych includes a white cop, expressionless behind his glasses and his gadgets for official violence, and a black preacher with one hand out for money and the other scratching his head in bewilderment. The total effect is wry and devastating.

Painter David Scott Brown makes good use of broken, ambiguous form to suggest different kinds of energy. Keeping his palette light and airy, he evokes a lively atmosphere in The Musicians. Delta Cab’s heavier reds underscore its violence. In both paintings the expressions are fine, ranging from contented preoccupation to stark terror. Preoccupation, this time associated with listlessness rather than energy, also appears on the features of Philippe G. Smith’s marble Mad Man, whom Smith movingly portrays as sufferer rather than zealot.

Carl R. Smith takes the broad heads of nails, which of course usually occur alone, and hammers them one next to the other to form something odd for them, a collective plane, the ground around his bas-reliefs. His figures consist of nail-heads even closer together, overlapping to form, stranger still, surfaces which undulate. The deliberate, felt violence of Mother and Child’s technical production—“process sculpture” with a vengeance—contrasts nicely with its gentleness of subject and contours and with the floating quality of its overall image.

Jean-Louis Bourgeois