Recently, Josh Barone, from The New York Times, spoke with Melissa Levin and Alex Fialho, the co-curators of Michael Richards: Winged, our exhibition in the Arts Center at Governors Island that is open through September 25. An excerpt and a link to the full article for your reading pleasure is below. Please don’t miss this timely show!
His name may not seem familiar now, but in the 1990s, Mr. Richards was a rising star among black artists. He was in a group show with Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall. The Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, where he was an artist in residence, exhibited his work.
Mr. Richards’s last residency was with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, in 2001. He worked on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower in the council’s World Views studio, and had spent the night there on Sept. 10. He was killed the next morning in the Sept. 11 attacks.
His art, which dealt heavily in metaphors of flight and the myth of Icarus, took on an eerie prescience in light of his death. Take, for example, his most famous sculpture, “Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian,” a gilded cast of Mr. Richards’s body, dressed as a Tuskegee airman and impaled by 18 small airplanes.
That sculpture and others — along with drawings, ephemera and remembrances by close friends and collaborators — are included in the exhibition. Most of the art hasn’t been seen in 15 years.
“Michael’s work, for whatever reason, has sort of fallen out of the public eye since 9/11,” said Alex Fialho, who organized the show with Melissa Levin, the council’s director of cultural programs.
But “it couldn’t feel more right for the moment,” Ms. Levin said. “The issues of racial inequity and social injustice, all the complexity of this fraught contemporary moment — he was addressing these things 15 to 20 years ago, and the work still feels so relevant.”