Artist Talk: Kenseth Armstead
Time & Location
About the Event
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Join us for a lunchtime artist talk with conceptual artist Kenseth Armstead and curator Kendal Henry. Armstead’s new public artwork Boulevard of African Monarchs celebrates the legacy of African excellence in America. The installation is presented by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance & the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art). On view until August 2021 at 116th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, Harlem, NY.
About Boulevard of African Monarchs
Boulevard of African Monarchs connects Harlem, a hub of African excellence in America, to Tiébélé, Burkina Faso, royal court of the Kassena people. The work reproduces house paintings by women artists, a tradition in Tiébélé that predates the triangular transatlantic slave trade. The sculpture transforms the marks into freestanding shapes that BREATHE.
Boulevard of African Monarchs is dedicated in loving memory to Emmett Till, Tanisha Anderson, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many thousands more who have been lynched in America.
Boulevard of African Monarchs is the first sculpture in the Sankofa_ project. Each site-specific work is inspired by “Sankofa” a word in the Twi language that means “go back and get it”. The works celebrate Africans and their diaspora, proclaiming Black Lives Matter in three dimensions. Sankofa_ honors, in monumental form, Black Beauty, free in the public square.
The installation is presented by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance & the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art), with support by New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Public programming is organized by the commissioning partners, and KODA.
Kenseth Armstead has created provocative conceptual art for three decades. His work has been included in pivotal explorations of history, American culture, ethnicity, and institution defining moments. Selected historic exhibitions: Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Open House: Working in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Museum; and Modern Heroics, 75 years of African American Expressionism at the Newark Museum.
Commissioned site-specific installations from Armstead’s Farther Land series include: Heresy • Hearsay (2014) at Olana State Historic Site; Master Work: Astoria Houses, Building 24 (2015) at Socrates Sculpture Park; Master Work: Slaves of New York 1776 (2018) at BRIC House, in The Project Room; and Washington 20/20/20 (2018) at the George Washington Equestrian Monument, in Union Square Park, presented by NYC Art in the Parks. The first work in Armstead’s new project Sankofa_ is Boulevard of African Monarchs (2020) in Harlem, commissioned by the NYC DOT Art and Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.
Armstead’s videos, drawings and sculptures are in the collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Centre Pompidou, African American Museum in Dallas, Texas, the Newark Museum. His work has been reviewed in: L Magazine, The New York Times, Art in America, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.
Armstead holds a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art & Design, and MS in Integrated Digital Media from NYU's Tandon School of Engineering. He also completed the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. He has received grants and fellowships from Skowhegan School of the Arts, NYFA, NYSCA, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Creative Capital Foundation.
Kendal Henry is an artist and curator who lives in New York City and has specialized in the field of public art for over 30 years. He illustrates that public art can be used as a tool for social engagement, civic pride and economic development through the projects and programs he’s initiated in the US and internationally.
Kendal believes that the most successful public artworks start with the question, “What is the artwork to achieve?” and takes into account the audience and surrounding environment in the creation of that artwork.
He’s currently the Director of NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. A guest lecturer at various universities and educational institutions including Rhode Island School of Design Senior Studio; and Pratt Institute’s Arts and Cultural Management Program. Kendal served as the Director of Culture and Economic Development for the City of Newburgh, NY where he created the region’s first Percent for Art Program. Prior to that post he was Manager of Arts Programs at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Arts for Transit for eleven years. During this time, he has overseen the commissioning, fabrication and installation of MTA’s permanent art projects, served as a member of the MTA’s in-house design team, and produced temporary exhibitions at Grand Central Terminal.
Kendal was also the Curator-at-large at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, NY and was elected to serve two 3-year terms on the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Council.
About NYC DOT Art
The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide. www.nyc.gov/dotart
Founded in 2000, The Marcus Garvey Park Alliance (MGPA) was formed to restore the Park as a safe and inviting place for community residents. Over time, the mission has adapted to the changing cultural and political climates of the city. No longer is the mission to simply restore and maintain the Park; rather, the mission has grown to use the Park as a tool to embrace the community on a more profound level.
KODA Arts Inc. is a nonprofit arts organization based in New York dedicated to mid-career artists of diverse backgrounds. KODA grants residencies to allow for experimentation and facilitates creative projects through strategic partnerships with socially engaged businesses. KODA is the go-to thinking spot and serves the community through exhibitions of contemporary art, events and outreach to strengthen art education. KODA’s projects and strategy are artist-centered and aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. KODA is fiscally sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).