Project Dates: May 2021 – May 2022
Saturday, May 1st, 2021
Live Painting Session with Amanda Williams: 2-6 pm
Saturday, May 8th, 2021
Saturday May 15th, 2021
Collective Painting Sessions (virtual participation by Amanda Williams), 2-6 pm
Tuesday, June 1st, 2021
Website Launch + Virtual Program / Amanda Williams & Cauleen Smith, 6-8 pm
New York, NY – This Saturday, May 1st, 2021, Storefront for Art and Architecture launches What Black Is This, You Say? a year-long public artwork initiative by Amanda Williams that transforms the organization’s facade. The project begins with collective painting sessions led by the artist on the first three Saturdays of May from 2-6 pm at Storefront’s gallery at 97 Kenmare Street. On Tuesday, June 1st from 6-8 pm, Storefront will host a virtual event with Amanda Williams in conversation with artist Cauleen Smith. The public artwork will be on view until May 2022, accompanied by a digital program of writings, works, and events released each month starting on June 1st, 2021 at www.whatblackisthisyousay.org.
About the Project
What Black Is This,You Say? began as an informal response to #BlackoutTuesday, a social media protest campaign that invited the public to post black squares on Instagram. This “blackout” of communication on June 2nd, 2020 was intended to be a show of solidarity with Black lives and the calls for justice in response to the murder of George Floyd and many others before him.
Drawing upon her past work exploring color theory, Williams sought to bring attention to the plurality, complexity, and nuance of Black experience(s). Over the following five months, in order to challenge the black square as a monolithic representation, she posted 120+ shades or textures on Instagram – each with a corresponding caption. Together, they provide a rich palette of overlapping and divergent narratives and histories that inform Black identity.
At Storefront, Williams presents a public artwork that more deeply explores twelve of these shades, each one painted on one of the twelve moving panels of the gallery’s facade that serve as hinges between the public realm and the gallery interior. The work constitutes a permanent transformation of Storefront’s facade, which all subsequent exhibitions will navigate and build upon in various ways.
Alongside this public artwork, Storefront presents a digital program of visual, written, and live content at www.whatblackisthisyousay.org. Each month from June 2021 until May 2022, a new shade will be explored through images and memories from the artist; commissioned texts from artists, writers, and cultural figures; and public submissions. Together, these discussions interrogate and contextualize commonly held narratives around Black culture, joy, spirituality, suffering, agency, labor, and more.
Visit www.whatblackisthisyousay.org to learn more and RSVP for upcoming programming.
About the Artist
Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect. Her creative practice employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of how race shapes the ways in which we assign value to space in cities. The landscapes in which she operates are the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have misshapen most major US cities. Williams’ installations, paintings, and works on paper seek to inspire new ways of looking at the familiar, and in the process, raise questions about the state of urban space and ownership in America.
In the spring and summer of 2021, Williams presents three bodies of work at New York City organizations. In addition to this public artwork at Storefront, they include two projects organized by The Museum of Modern Art: Embodied Sensations, a participatory artwork that considers the transformation of public space during the global pandemic-and the stark inequities and systemic injustices that underlie such shifts. Embodied Sensations is on view in The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium from April 10th – June 20th, 2021. Learn more here.
About On Maintenance
What Black is This, You Say? is presented as part of On Maintenance, Storefront’s interim program launched in the midst of the global pandemic. The program introduces an interjection and a moment of pause in our previously scheduled programming to address aspects of maintenance and care, exploring what it means to both sustain and rehaul our spaces, our social and political systems, and our bodies and minds. What Black is This, You Say? follows three other projects in the program: StorefrontTV Season 3, Re-Source, and A Long Evening with Christian Nyampeta.