In 1974, documentary filmmaker and activist Linda Goode Bryant founded Just Above Midtown—better known as JAM—an art gallery space in New York City for burgeoning Black art, The vibrant hub's mission was to provide a “forum that presented African-American artists on the same platform with other established artists.” For 20-plus years, JAM supported and nurtured artists of diverse and different races and backgrounds to create conceptual art, abstraction, performance and video to express their true selves.

JAM’s first location was a compact space in Midtown Manhattan’s commercial gallery. It then moved to a former meatpacking storefront in Tribeca before spending its final year in SoHo, where it included studios for artists to make and distribute their work, until its closing in 1986. It has now been resurrected at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) through the museum's new presentation, Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces. 

Barbara Mitchell (center right) and Tyrone Mitchell (far right) at the opening of the exhibition Synthesis, November 18, 1974. Photograph by Camille Billops. Courtesy the Hatch-Billops Collection, New York
Barbara Mitchell and Tyrone Mitchell at JAM, 1974. Image: photograph by Camille Billops. Courtesy the Hatch-Billops Collection, New York.

The exhibition, organized as a collage, unveils a loose chronological timeline of JAM, which includes archival photos, videos and other contextual historical material. It references many solo and group exhibitions, performances and installations that took place at JAM, including a wide range of art made by key figures like David Hammons, Janet Henry, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell and Randy Williams, along with many others. In addition to the exhibition, the project includes performances, film screenings, public programs and an exhibition catalog, co-published with The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Installation view of Just Above Midtown MoMA
Installation view of Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces, on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, through February 18, 2023. Image: photo by Emile Askey.

Another piece of the exhibition is the Just Above Midtown Oral History Project, which revisits the relationships, conversations and creative moments that made JAM a meaningful place of welcome. Maren Hassinger, Janet Olivia Henry, Suzanne Jackson, G. Peter Jemison, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, and Randy Williams are some of the artists interviewed, as well as JAM staff, volunteers and friends like Horace Brockington, Gylbert Coker, Pat Cummings, Kathleen Goncharov, A.C. Hudgins, Lowery Stokes Sims, Faythe Weaver and Tony Whitfield. MoMA Audio is available free of charge.