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'Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA' on view at the Museum of the African Diaspora
Robert Colescott, Colored TV, 1977; acrylic on canvas; 84 x 66 in. (213.36 x 167.64 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Vicki and Kent Logan; © Estate of Robert Colescott; photo: Don Ross.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Jointly organized by the Museum of the African Diaspora and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA brings together approximately 50 carefully selected artworks that explore the dynamic role of portraiture in modern and contemporary art. On view from May 8 to October 11, 2015, this landmark collaboration activates numerous spaces in the newly renovated MoAD, and is the most extensive exhibition in MoAD’s 10-year history.

“Since reopening last year, MoAD has been committed to delivering vibrant, relevant exhibitions in our reimagined space,” said MoAD executive director Linda Harrison. “We were thrilled to be asked by SFMOMA to collaborate on developing a show of work by artists from the African Diaspora and Latin America, and I’m grateful for the creative hard work of cocurators Caitlin Haskell and Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins. Our collaboration with SFMOMA continues MoAD’s transformation as a serious cultural player in San Francisco.”

“The closure of SFMOMA for expansion construction has provided us a tremendous opportunity to partner with many of our peer cultural institutions, like MoAD,” said Neal Benezra, director of SFMOMA. “We are delighted to share these collaborations with our community, and look forward to continuing to build on this strong foundation of relationships when our museum reopens next spring.”

Featuring works ranging in date from the 1920s to the present, Portraits and Other Likenesses demonstrates how artists interested in issues of identity have negotiated African, European, and American visual-cultural forms to broaden our understanding of what it means to make a portrait. Placing historical artworks in dialogue with pieces created and acquired more recently, the exhibition examines how portraiture has evolved from a form of personal identification to a genre as invested in fiction, subversion, stereotype, and fantasy as it is in the description of physical traits.

The selection of works in Portraits and Other Likenesses—more than half of them displayed for the first time as part of SFMOMA’s collection—encompasses paintings, sculptures, photographs, and media art. The exhibition additionally includes a newly commissioned multimedia installation by Mickalene Thomas, Between Ourselves Together (2015), which places her large-scale photograph from SFMOMA’s collection— Sista Sista Lady Blue (2007)—alongside related photographs and a film in an immersive setting designed to evoke a 1970s living room.

Cocurated by LeFalle-Collins, guest curator for MoAD, and Haskell, assistant curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, the exhibition also includes key pieces by Romare Bearden, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, David Hammons, Mildred Howard, Consuelo Kanaga, Wifredo Lam, Glenn Ligon, Nicole Miller, Chris Ofili, Lorna Simpson, Joaquin Trujillo, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Fred Wilson, among others.

Highlights of Portraits and Other Likenesses include:

 Romare Bearden, Three Men (1966–67): Created during the civil rights era, this large-scale collage, or “montage painting,” offers an outstanding example of the technique for which Bearden is best known. Layers of newspaper, magazine clippings, and colored paper are joined together to compose an engrossing tableau.

 Kara Walker, Daylights (after M.B.) (2011): Depicting the physical and cultural displacement that accompanied the Great Migration, this drawing presents a biting critique of the violence and social disruption associated with diaspora.

 Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Sapphires Under Cotton (2013): Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits are filled with seemingly familiar faces, yet her subjects are drawn entirely from imagination. A stunning example of her approach, this painting eschews an actual sitter, adopting a traditional European portrait style but expanding upon the genre by including a black subject.

 Glenn Ligon, Narratives (1993): Adapting the antiquated format of 19th-century slave narratives, Ligon’s Narratives comments on his own life and experiences as a gay black man in the 1990s.

 Sargent Johnson, Forever Free (1933): An allegory of the promise and realization of freedom, this sculpture was on view in SFMOMA’s inaugural exhibition in January 1935. It ultimately became one of the artist’s signature works and inspired a new generation of black artists.

 Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Wedding Portrait (2012): This vibrant collage depicts a moment from the artist’s wedding day. Kneeling in traditional Nigerian clothing before her white, American husband-to-be, Akunyili Crosby offers a juxtaposition of diverse cultures, creating a liminal space that illuminates the ambiguity of her personal experiences.

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