Clifford Owens, Anthology (Nsenga Knight), detail. Performance still. Courtesy On Stellar Rays.

Clifford Owens, Compiling, Anthologizing African-American Performance

Clifford Owens, Anthology (Senga Nengudi). Performance still. Courtesy On Stellar Rays.


22-25 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City
3rd Floor Archive Galleries, MoMA PS1
Clifford Owens: Anthology
November 13, 2011-March 12, 2012

MoMA PS1 presents the first New York museum exhibition of artist Clifford Owens (American, b. 1971). The solo exhibition will premiere Owens’s latest body of work, Anthology, which consists primarily of photography, video, and live performance. The performance was organized by MoMA PS1 Assistant Curator Christopher Y. Lew.

Anthology features performances scores — written or graphical instructions for actions — that Owens solicited from a multigenerational group of African-American artists. Twenty-six major artists have contributed scores, nearly all of whom composed new works specifically for Owens and his project.

Owens has long known that African-American performance art has been under-recognized and that its history remains largely unwritten. Rather than producing scholarly research on the topic, Owens has created a new series of work that actively explores this issue. Over the past year, he has asked established and emerging artists to help create a compendium of African-American performance that is both highly personal and historical in nature.

The scores range from vague commands to highly choreographed movements and actions. Through Owens’ subjective reading of each score, he underscores the mutability and elastic nature of the sets of instructions. By enacting nearly all of the scores himself and often more than once, Owens literally embodies the work in order to highlight the nature of live performance, the original instructions, and the rich interpretive gap between the two. During the summer of 2011, Owens had studio space at MoMA PS1 and made use of the entire building to enact the performance scores. On a weekly basis, Owens performed in various locations including the basement boiler room, rooftop, and attic. He made reference to the history of the building as both a museum and a school by conducting actions before an audience and in private. The resulting photographs, videos, and objects will be presented in the exhibition. The artist will also perform selected scores live throughout the course of the show.

Anthology scores have been contributed by artists including Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Sanford Biggers, Aisha Cousins, Sherman Fleming, Coco Fusco, Charles Gaines, Malik Gaines, Rico Gatson, Rashawn Griffin, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Steffani Jemison, Jennie C. Jones, Nsenga A. Knight, Glenn Ligon, Dave McKenzie, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Benjamin Patterson, William Pope.L, Jacolby Satterwhite, Xaviera Simmons, Shinique Smith, Kara Walker, and Saya Woolfalk.

An accompanying artist book will be released in late 2012 or in 2013.

Clifford Owens (American, b. 1971) lives and works in New York City. He has been exhibiting since 2001 and recently opened his first solo museum exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. He has also participated in exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, On Stellar Rays, Queens Museum of Art, the Kitchen, and Art in General (all in New York); MIT List Visual Art Center, Cambridge, MA; and Parasite Art Space, Hong Kong. Owens was featured in Greater New York (2005) at MoMA PS1.

Clifford Owens, Anthology (Dave McKenzie). Performance still. Courtesy On Stellar Rays.