Public Art Fund Virtual Talks: Black Atlantic Panel


On June 2, join artists Leilah Babirye, Hugh Hayden, Dozie Kanu, and Kiyan Williams for a virtual conversation about their new works for Black Atlantic with Adjunct Curator Daniel S. Palmer. Their commissions, wide-ranging both materially and conceptually, create an exchange of ideas that proposes an open, multifaceted, and heterogeneous idea of identity in the United States today.

Black Atlantic is an exhibition inspired by the diaspora across the ocean that connects Africa with the Americas and Europe. Over the centuries, these transatlantic networks have led to complex hybrid cultures and identities like those of the five artists featured in Black Atlantic. Each installation suggests a unique creative approach towards crafting new futures through the personal gestures of hand-made work, often in dialogue with the processes of large-scale fabrication. The exhibition will be on view through November 27, 2022 throughout Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Public Art Fund Talks are presented in partnership with The Cooper Union

About the Artists

Leilah Babirye (born 1985, Kampala, Uganda) is an artist and activist who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She studied art at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda (2007–2010), and participated in the Fire Island Artist Residency in 2015. The artist fled her native Uganda to New York in 2015 after being publicly outed in a local newspaper. In spring 2018, Babirye was granted asylum with support from the African Services Committee and the NYC Anti-Violence Project. Throughout her multidisciplinary practice, Babirye transforms wood, ceramic, found materials, and paint into figurative subjects that address issues surrounding identity, sexuality, and human rights. Babirye explores the diversity of LGBTQI identities and endows each subject with regal dignity and expressive, tactile beauty. Recent exhibitions include Ebika Bya ba Kuchu mu Buganda (Kuchu Clans of Buganda) at Gordon Robichaux, New York and Los Angeles and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London;  Flight: A Collective History at the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (curated by Serubiri Moses); Stonewall 50 at the Contemporary Arts Museum (CAMH), Houston, Texas; and at Socrates Sculpture Park where she presented two monumental commissioned sculptures.

Hugh Hayden (b. 1983, Dallas, Texas) considers the anthropomorphizing of the natural world as a visceral lens to explore the human condition. Utilizing wood as his primary medium, Hayden transforms familiar objects through a process of selection, carving and juxtaposition to challenge our perceptions of ourselves, others and the environment. Working with objects loaded with multi-layered histories as varied as discarded trunks, rare indigenous timbers, Christmas trees or souvenir African sculptures, he often combines disparate species, creating new composite forms that also reflect their complex cultural backgrounds. Hayden lives and works in New York City; he holds an MFA from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University. Hayden’s recent solo exhibitions include: Huey, Lisson Gallery,  New York, 2021; Boogey Men, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 2021; and Brier Patch, commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York, 2022.

Dozie Kanu (b. 1993, Houston, Texas) is based in Santarém, Portugal. His research focuses on a concept of sculpture that looks at the production of objects in which a tension between their use and their history, memory and materiality is embedded. Kanu’s visual language criticizes western art history canons, subtly and elegantly revealing in the objects narratives involving colonialism and identity, focusing on their diasporic condition. Selected exhibitions include: Midtown, organized by Salon 94 and Maccarone Gallery, Lever House, New York, 2017; FUNCTION, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 2019; Transformer: A Rebirth of Wonder, 180 The Strand, London, 2019; Recoil (with Cudelice Brazelton IV), International Waters, Brooklyn, New York, 2020; Owe Deed, One Deep, Project Native Informant, London, 2020; Enzo Mari, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Triennale Milano, 2020; Crack Up – Crack Down, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 2020; value order [], Galeria Madragoa, Lisbon, Portugal, 2021; to prop and ignore, Manual Arts, Los Angeles, California, 2021.

Kiyan Williams (b. 1991, Newark, NJ) is a visual artist and writer who works fluidly across performance, sculpture, video, and 2d realms. Rooted in a process-driven practice, they are attracted to quotidian, unconventional materials and methods that evoke the historical, political, and ecological forces that shape individual and collective bodies. Williams earned a BA with honors from Stanford University and an MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University. Their work has been exhibited at SculptureCenter, The Jewish Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Recess Art, and The Shed. They have given artist talks and lectures at the Hirshhorn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Princeton University, Stanford University, Portland State University, The Guggenheim, and Pratt Institute. Williams’ work is in private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

About the Talks

 Public Art Fund Talks, organized in collaboration with The Cooper Union, connect compelling contemporary artists to a broad public by establishing a dialogue about artistic practices and public art. The Talks series feature internationally renowned artists who offer insights into artmaking and its personal, social, and cultural contexts. The core values of creative expression and democratic access to culture and learning shared by both Public Art Fund and The Cooper Union are embodied in this ongoing collaboration. In the spirit of accessibility to the broadest and most diverse public, the Talks are offered free of charge.