Beverly Buchanan: Shacks and Legends, 1985–2011

Abigail DeVille: Homebody

Andrew Edlin Gallery (212 Bowery)

March 20-May 8, 2021

I first met Beverly Buchanan in January 1990 at her solo exhibit, “A Celebration of the Architecture of the Shack in Two and Three Dimensions,” in the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery on Greene Street, just a few blocks away from my SoHo loft. I had done some background research on Buchanan (1940–2015), who grew up in Orangeburg, S.C. and was raised by her parents Walter and Marion Buchanan in a big house on the campus of South Carolina State College where Walter (who…

Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

The New Museum on the Bowery (February 16 to June 6)

Medium, March 13, 2021

By Roslyn Bernstein

Okwui Enwezor in 2012 at The ICP Apartheid Exhibit. Photo by Roslyn Bernstein.

Eight years ago, I attended a press preview for The Rise and Fall of Apartheid at the International Center for Photography (ICP), organized by the Nigerian-born curator Okwui Enwezor (1963–2019). It was an extraordinary exhibit whose breadth and depth transformed our understanding of the meaning of Apartheid in South Africa. Beginning with a checklist of some 1000 works, Enwezor whittled the exhibit down to some 500 pieces — photographs, artworks, films, videos, documents, posters and periodicals. It was, he told reporters, as…

Where Novices and Professionals Work Side by Side

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

In February 2020, I spent two weeks in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), Mexico. The idea was to escape the winter by vacationing in the small colonial town, where an ex-pat community of Americans and Canadians of 15,000 lived side-by-side with 130,000 Mexicans. It was a tourist city but one famous for its progressive lectures, iconic literary festival, and, since the late 1930s, its arts. A long-time friend asked me to take a picture of a modest building where her father, a New York City advertising copywriter…

I almost missed seeing the Grey Art Gallery’s (NYU) powerful exhibit of contemporary Iranian, Indian, and Turkish art, from the 1960s and 1970s. With only two days to go (it closes on December 7th), I popped into the gallery, gravitating almost immediately to three etchings by Krishna Reddy, an artist and SoHo neighbor who lived in 80 Wooster Street. I interviewed Reddy and his artist wife Judy Blum Reddy for the book, Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo that I co-authored with Shael Shapiro.

The last time that I was in Reddy’s loft was at a…

For as long as I can remember, I jumped over lines and cracks in the sidewalk, repeating to myself as I leaped in the air, “Step on a line, break your mother’s spine; Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Always counting, as I hurtled forward.

Numbers were my way of controlling the environment, whether it was the concrete pavement that I walked on or the Broadway musical, where I sat in the audience and counted the performers who took a bow at the end of every performance.

Numbers were very much on my mind in 1961 when I…

It’s the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States, completed in 1869 by over 12,000 Chinese laborers who, under the harshest of conditions, laid the track from west to east, meeting up at Promontory Summit, Utah, with Irish laborers who had worked from east to west.

According to Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), it is an anniversary that has not gotten the attention it deserves. Speaking at the opening of two new exhibits at MOCA, Maasbach lamented the fact that “after 200 years of being part of America, there are no…

Contemporary Art in Morocco:

Everything but Sex, Religion, and the Monarchy

The tour guide’s first warning struck me as strange: “Whatever you do,” he said, “don’t photograph any of the King’s guards or his police. They are definitely off limits.” I scanned his face looking for a faint smile, some sign that this was all a joke but his jaw was set and his eyes focused sternly on the group of tourists in front of him.

How could this be? After all, this was Morocco, the gateway to Africa, the country which had weathered the turmoil of the Arab spring…

Displaying Displacement: Juneteenth in Washington, DC

Last fall, I agreed to loan a sculpture, Beverly Buchanan’s Hastings House (1989) to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC for an exhibit, The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement. A wooden shack with a crudely hammered tin roof, the 19-inch-high piece came with a legend written by Buchanan, an African American artist who died in 2015:

“Brunson Earthly Hastings lived by the rules of hard work, no liquor, and one woman. His 10 sons were smart, hardworking farm boys but Anna, the only girl, was his heart. He was blind when…

Modernist Architecture on Park Avenue (NYC)

In 1961, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) jointly published Ada Louise Huxtable’s pocket guide, “Four Walking Tours of Modern Architecture in New York City.” One tour focused on modernist buildings that were erected in the Post World War II era on the stretch of Park Avenue from 46th to 59th Streets, when residential buildings, some only 20 or 30 years old, began to be torn down. …

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Art from the FUN Side of The Wall

It’s been one year since I last sat down to chat with Tania Noriz, the editor-in-chief of Atencion San Miguel, the local, bilingual weekly whose Que Pasa guide pretty much shapes the daily itinerary of residents in the colonia. It’s mid-February, high season, and the narrow sidewalks, barely wide enough for one person, are crowded with tourists, heads down to avoid tripping. In the parks, benches in the shade are hard to come by.

Everywhere, there are signs of renovation and new construction: a condominium complex advertising…

roslyn bernstein

An arts and culture journalist for Guernica, Huff Post, Tablet, etc, Roslyn Bernstein’s books include Engaging Art, Illegal Living, and Boardwalk Stories.

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