By Hudson River Museum
Black History in the Hudson River Museum collection
Friday (1982) by Richard MayhewHudson River Museum
This February, the Hudson River Museum is proud to acknowledge and highlight several key works from the museum’s collection that reframe Black History.
Currently on view is Richard Mayhew’s Friday, 1982. Mayhew, whose visionary, landscape-inspired abstractions reflect his background growing up on Long Island and painting alongside landscape painters in the Hudson River School tradition as a child, also attributes his reverence for the landscape to his mixed African American and Native American background.
Map of the Frenglish Kingdom of Novum Eboracum (New York) (We All Got To Have a Place We Call Home) (2015) by Frohawk Two FeathersHudson River Museum
Similarly, the artist Umar Rashid who, under the nom de plume Frohawk Two Feathers, explores the intermixture of colonial American, hip-hop and ancient Egyptian history in his Map of the Frenglish Kingdom of Novum Eboracum (New York) (We All Got To Have a Place We Call Home), 2015.
Re-imagining an alternate colonial history and populating this map of the Hudson’s waterways with iconography from ancient Egypt, Frohawk Two Feathers (whose moniker itself refers to the iconography of the deity Set) dismantles and imaginatively reassembles “official” histories in his work.
Orbiting Us #18 (2018) by Derrick AdamsHudson River Museum
In a more recent acquisition, Derrick Adams’ Orbiting Us #18, a sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Amen-em-hat III appears in space with Jupiter and an Ebony Magazine image of a NASA technician preparing a pressure suit.
While Mayhew and Frohawk engage visionary experience with landscape and imaginary histories, Adams looks to the cosmos. Each artist draws on history which speaks to his own experience and background, asserted through recovery or reinvention.
While people of the African diaspora have often seen their history suppressed, these artists engage and reclaim that history. The ancient civilizations that had been denied to people of African descent have now been mobilized. As we celebrate Black History Month this February, we remember that history—ancient, modern, but always personal—continues to inspire artists and audiences alike.
Exhibition by Ted Barrow, Assistant Curator and Christian Stegall, Kress Fellow, Hudson River Museum