Sat, May 28–Sun, Sep 25, 2016*
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays
from 12:00–5:00pm
The Arts Center at Governors Island, Building 110

*During the River To River Festival
Thu, Jun 16–Sun, Jun 26 from 12:00–5:00pm daily

Curated by Alex Fialho & Melissa Levin

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s 2016 summer exhibition is dedicated to the late artist Michael Richards (1963-2001) and includes a range of Richards’ work in sculpture and drawing, most of which has not been on public view for over 15 years, as well as documentation and ephemera of his art and life.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Richards was working in his LMCC World Views studio on the 92nd floor of World Trade Center, Tower One, when the first plane struck, taking his life along with the thousands of others who passed away in the tragic events of that day. At the time of his passing, Richards was an emerging artist whose incisive aesthetic—always provocative, at times playful, yet never without a critical bent—held immense promise to make him a leading figure in contemporary art.

Materially and conceptually, Richards used the language of metaphor in his art to investigate racial inequity and the tension between assimilation and exclusion. Aviation, flight, and escape were central themes of Richards’ work, gesturing towards both repression and reprieve from social injustices, and the simultaneous possibilities of uplift and downfall, often in the context of the historical and ongoing oppression of black people. Significant points of reference for Richards included the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in United States military history, and the complexity of their triumphs in the face of segregation, as well as religious and ritual figures and stories from African and Judeo-Christian traditions. Centering his own experience, Richards used his body to cast the figures for his sculptures, who often appear as pilots, saints, or both.

In light of the devastating circumstances that took Richards’ life, the airplanes, wings, and aviation imagery that recur throughout his body of work take on a prescient resonance. Richards poetically described the notion of flight in his practice: “The idea of flight relates to my use of pilots and planes, but it also references… the idea of being lifted up, enraptured, or taken up to a safe place–to a better world.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Michael Richards, Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 1999. Photo Credit: Photograph by Frank Stewart

 

The Great Black Airmen, 1996
Air Fall 1 (His Eye Is on the Sparrow, and I Know He’s Watching Me, 1998
Winged, 1999
Travel Kit, 1999
Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 1999
Drawings from the Escape Plan series, 1996–2000

Michael Richards: Winged is supported in part by Art Matters.
Special thanks to the Michael Richards Estate.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the generous conversations and correspondences with Michael’s beautiful community, family, friends, and colleagues. Our heartfelt thanks to:

Genaro Ambrosino
Brooke Davis Anderson
Nicole Awai
Todd Ayoung
Jackie Battenfield
Sergio Bessa
Steven Bollman
Monika Bravo
Laurie Halsey Brown
Alexander Campos
William Cordova
Renee Cox
Dawn Dale
Carola Dertnig
Stephanie Diamond
Jenny Dixon
Linda Johnson Dougherty
Christina Ferre Cohen
Alexander Halsey
Lyle Ashton Harris
John Hock
Christine Y. Kim
Moukhtar Kokache
Jeff Konigsberg
Motonobu Kurokawa
Kara Lynch
Marysol Nieves
Deirdre Scott
Dread Scott
Nathan See
Ward Shelly
Hyungsub Shin
Gregory Sholette
Lowery Stokes Sims
Franklin Sirmans
Tom Sokolowski
Frank Stewart
Carolyn Swiszcz
Liz Thompson
Jorge Daniel Veneciano
Wendell Walker
Donna Walker-Kuhne
Michele Wong

Thanks also to everyone who assisted in our research:
Gina Guddemi
John Hatfield
Lauren Haynes
Rujeko Hockley
Mary Kenealy
Thomas Lax
Eugenie Milroy
Shervone Neckles
Maria Elena Ortiz
Heather Reyes
Hallie Ringle
Amy Smith-Stewart
Abbe Schriber
Emily Vera
Jess Wilcox
Sacha Yanow
Franconia Sculpture Park
Pérez Art Museum Miami
Socrates Sculpture Park
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
The Bronx Museum of the Arts
The Studio Museum in Harlem