With the exhibition Harlem: Found Ways, the Cooper Gallery presents artistic visions and engagements specific to Harlem, New York City, in the last decades. Each artwork employs a distinct set of inquiries and innovative strategies to explore the Harlem community’s visual heritage as it grapples with the challenges of gentrification. The artists have found ways—urgent, complex, intense, and mindful—to present the tangled threads of dilemma and paradox, memory and memorial, beauty and poignancy, and also instances of disruption and resilience within Harlem’s new realities. Collectively, they offer deeply thoughtful reflections and provocative portrayals of Harlem, allowing us to see it anew in this moment of transformation.
The artworks on view encompass photography, mixed media, and installation, and are anchored by photographer Dawoud Bey’s two series: the iconic “Harlem, U.S.A.,” 1975–79 and his recent series of urban landscapes “Harlem Redux,” 2014–16. A selection of works by Abigail DeVille, Glenn Ligon, Howard Tangye, Nari Ward, and Kehinde Wiley, expand and define various emergent issues in the temporal zone located between Bey’s two photographic essays. Harlem: Found Ways also features a special installation of The Studio Museum in Harlem’s project Harlem Postcards, 2000–2017. Our galleries’ pathways twist through these varying artistic perceptions and narratives of profound change.