"Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” a highly anticipated exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, opened to the public February 27 (through May 31). Curated by Sean Anderson, of MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, and the scholar Mabel O. Wilson, professor of architecture at Columbia University, the show comprises contemporary work commissioned from ten architects and artists in response to the long legacy of racism, injustice and violence against African Americans, as expressed in the built environment and beyond. The participants are Emmanuel Admassu, Germane Barnes, Sekou Cooke, Yolande Daniels, Felecia Davis, Mario Gooden, David Hartt, Walter J. Hood, Olalekan Jeyifous, V. Mitch McEwen, and Amanda Williams. Each focuses on an historically Black town or neighborhood from West Oakland, California and Watts in Los Angeles to New Orleans, Miami, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, New York.
Amanda Williams. Spatial Diagrams. 2020. Ink on paper. 26 x 12” (66.04 x 30.48 cm). Image courtesy of the artist. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Click to enlarge.
While the designers or artists explore a past of bigotry and oppression in his or her chosen locale, the works are not so much proposed interventions or architectural solutions, as they are vivid provocations and inspirations for a re-imagined present and future. Deploying sculpture, mapping, collage, video, photography, graphics, models and more, the rich variety of resulting works explore Black cultural spaces from the scale of the kitchen or front porch to the tapestry of the city. Along with its incisive catalog, the handsomely-installed and visually lively show is a provocation for viewers to deepen their understanding of the depth of embedded racism in the urban environment and the opportunity to begin to imagine a more just future.
For MoMA, the show is part of repairing its own history. As the first major museum to establish a department of architecture and design, it has, over 90 years, almost entirely ignored the work of Black architects and designers in its collections or past exhibitions.
Germane Barnes. No Beach Access. 2020. Digital collage. 15 x 21.5″ (38.1 x 54.61 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image courtesy of the artist.
Cover of the exhibition catalogue Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, published by The Museum of Modern Art, 2021.
Olalekan Jeyifous. Plant Seeds Grow Blessings. 2020. Photomontage, framed renderings printed on Luster 260 GSM. 40 × 30″ (101.6 x 76.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image courtesy of the artist.
Watch a video preview of the exhibition below, courtesy of MoMA.