Central Park


Thursday, June 21, 2018
No. 61

On view through August 30 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park

NYC Parks today introduces “A Collective Utterance” by Naima Green, a stunning new photo exhibit at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. Culled from her ongoing portrait series “Jewels from The Hinterland” (2013–present). With black and brown artists, writers, culture workers, and thinkers positioned centrally in each image, the exhibition spans green spaces throughout New York City—such as Riverside Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Central Park—as well as select sites across the United States. The exhibit is organized by Oluremi C. Onabanjo.

“Naima Green’s photos beautifully capture some of New York City’s most bucolic park spaces, which makes them a perfect fit for the Arsenal Gallery,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “It is always inspiring to see the creative ways artists use parks in their work, and this exhibit is a wonderful example of that.”

“A hinterland is an area beyond a city or district; by definition, it is always beyond the visible,” said artist Naima Green. “In many ways, these photographs create an alternative present by envisioning urban green spaces as places of tenderness, beauty, and play for people of the African diaspora. I use these photographs as a way to assert and insert our presence in these landscapes. Beauty is an entry point—it might make us stop and look but it does not hold the story in its entirety. It is the first step towards intervening in predominant narratives. Beauty serves as a way to create glitches and holes in preexisting frameworks of urban decay.”

With each photograph, Green offers a statement of solace and strength, making visible a community typically relegated to the margins, yet who critically inform dominant tastes and trends. These gentle, nuanced compositions are particularly urgent within the context of sociopolitical crisis, where black and brown bodies are continually imaged as sites of violence and trauma. Within the framework of “A Collective Utterance,” each individual is left to be—in all of their tenderness, complexities, and intricacies.

The larger series, “Jewels from the Hinterland,” is informed by an interest in mapping urban sites, but in a manner that is more associative than cartographic. Featuring landscapes selected for their relationship to her subjects, Green’s pictures are nuanced portraits of Prospect Heights Community Farm, Morning¬side Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Central Park as much as they are of poet Morgan Parker, painter Jordan Casteel, writer Collier Meyerson, and editor Jason Parham.

Naima Green is a Brooklyn-based artist and educator. She holds an MFA in Photography from ICP–Bard, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University. Green recently presented her MFA thesis exhibition All the black language (May 2018), and her work has been featured in exhibitions at the International Center of Photography (2018), Houston Center for Photography (2017), Bronx Museum (2017), BRIC (2015 and 2016), Arsenal Gallery (2015) and Macy Gallery (2013 and 2014). Green has been an artist-in-residence at the Bronx Museum (2016), Vermont Studio Center (2015), and recipient of the Myers Art Prize at Columbia University (2013). Her work has been published in The Atlantic, The Fader, The Nation, New York Magazine, The New York Times, SPOOK and Cultured, amongst others.

Oluremi C. Onabanjo is a curator and scholar of photography and the arts of Africa. She is Director of Exhibitions and Collections at The Walther Collection Project Space, where she has organized exhibitions in Europe, North America, and Africa. She recently co-curated Recent Histories: Contemporary African Photography (2017), and edited its accompanying publication (Steidl, 2017), which was shortlisted for an ICP Infinity Award in Critical Writing and Research (2018) and named “One of the Best Photo books of 2017” by The New York Times. Onabanjo lectures internationally on photography and curatorial practice, and has contributed to catalogues and publications by 10x10 Photobooks, the American Federation of Arts, Aperture, Autograph ABP, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Walther Collection amongst others.

NYC Parks’ Arsenal Gallery celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. The gallery is dedicated to examining themes of nature, urban space, wildlife, New York City parks and park history. It is located on the third floor of Parks’ headquarters in Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and admission is free. For more information on the Arsenal Gallery, please call 212-360-8163 or visit nyc.gov/parks.

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