Temple alumna holds Malcolm X series at museum

Malcolm X Steles series runs until this January at the Phila. Museum of Art.

Barbara Chase-Riboud’s artwork, inspired by the civil rights era, is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until January before it moves to the Berklee Art Museum. | Kara Milstein TTN
Barbara Chase-Riboud’s artwork, inspired by the civil rights era, is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until January before it moves to the Berklee Art Museum. | Kara Milstein TTN

Once a student at Tyler School of Art, Barbara Chase-Riboud has landed a full exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Inspired by Malcolm X and the civil rights movement, Chase-Riboud began her first sculptures of the series in 1969. In between working on this exhibit, Chase-Riboud completed various other projects over the years. The artist later continued her work in the 2000s, picking up where she left off.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the first place where Chase-Riboud is having her own exhibition in more than 10 years. Her series, “The Malcolm X Steles,” is a tribute to Malcolm X. Chase-Riboud has provided five of her sculptures in the series to the museum, as well as more than 40 pieces of artwork constructed in Europe and the United States.

Standing among an array of other rooms featuring colorful work in the modern and contemporary section, “The Malcolm X Steles’” dark colors and deep emotion evoke contrast from the other artworks.

“Monuments, steles, they mark a sense of loss, something that is no longer there. Something that resulted in loss,” said John Vick, an exhibition assistant in modern and contemporary art at the museum. “But you can still have a very positive, aspiring experience depending on how that monument or sculpture appears.”

She uses a difference in textures to represent unities between different materials and how tension and togetherness can coexist.

The museum was given one of Chase-Riboud’s sculptures back in 2001, so museum staff pursued this idea of an exhibit based around her work. One of the pieces that is on display is a statue called “Malcolm X #3,” which includes polished bronze and silk thread, continuing her multi-textured theme.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Chase-Riboud attended the Tyler School of Art and now lives in Europe. Vick said he appreciates having a local artist featured in the museum, though he said it’s purely coincidental.

Vick said contemporary pieces or video installations may draw in a younger audience, but normally, people who come to museums are more open to view every part of the museum instead of focusing on one area.

“One of the dynamic aspects in the way in which this [exhibition] seems to be caught in, is this moment of transformation,” Vick said. “This transformation from materials, from hard, ridged bronze to soft and subtle fiber. This seeming transformation of vertical and horizontal, they really seem to the ground like water, but also very upright. This transformation of time and legacy, I mean, very much contemporary in this present moment, they are right in front, but they also relate to the steles that have existed throughout history.”

Vick calls Chase-Riboud’s founding of “The Malcolm X Steles Series” her “aha” moment, where her full strength is captured in the public eye and put on display.

The exhibition is shown in various places throughout the museum as a way to draw people into the main exhibit. At the Great Stair Hall, a sculpture from the series stands alone. Room 172 in the museum focuses on the drawings and another in Alter Hall focuses on her monument paintings. In a walk-way in Room 173, sculptures face each other.

Using charcoal, graphite and ink, Chase-Riboud’s monument drawings are of historically important places and people like Alexander Pushkin and Man Ray.

“The Malcolm X Steles” is also curated by Carlos Basualdo. The exhibit will be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until Jan. 20, 2014 before moving to the Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive this spring. The exhibition is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

Chelsea Finn can be reached at chelsea.finn@temple.edu.

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