Today, the Studio Museum in Harlem will debut Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art, an exhibition exploring the ways contemporary artists use EBONY and JET magazines as resource and inspiration. Published by Johnson Publishing Company for over 69 years, both magazines are considered cultural touchstones for many African-Americans, and often represent a commonality between people of diverse backgrounds.
Considering EBONY and JET from a variety of perspectives—as journalistic material and important documenters of Black life, as metaphor for African-American culture, and as theoretical spaces for Black thought and exchange—the exhibition examines both magazines’ material and cultural legacy as artists perceive them.
While much of the work in the exhibition utilizes EBONY and JET imagery and text as source material, for some, the concept of the publications and their institutional histories provides the starting point for art. Widely circulated and historically iconic in the Black community for decades, both magazines have long been known for collection and display in African-American households. Many of the artists included in Speaking of People maintain their own personal archives.
The first exhibition devoted to this topic, Speaking of People features over 30 works by a multi-generational, interdisciplinary group of 16 artists, including Lorna Simpson, Purvis Young, Glenn Ligon and more.
Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art will be on view at The Studio Museum in Harlem from November 13, 2014 to March 8, 2015.