Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water at The Shed, October 16, 2020 – April 11, 2021

 “The Shed reopened October 16 with a solo exhibition, nearly four years in the making, featuring new work by Howardena Pindell that examines the violent, historical trauma of racism in America and the therapeutic power of art.

For her solo exhibition at The Shed, Howardena Pindell presents Rope/Fire/Water, her first video in 25 years and a project unrealized by the artist since the 1970s that The Shed commissioned. In this powerful work, Pindell recounts personal anecdotes and anthropological and historical data related to lynchings and racist attacks in the United States. She accompanies this voice-over with archival photos of lynchings and the historic Birmingham, Alabama, Children’s Crusade, a series of nonviolent protests carried out by young people in May 1963. 

Over her nearly 60-year career, Pindell has created richly textured abstract paintings while engaging with politics and the social issues of her time. In the exhibition, Pindell will also debut a pair of large-scale paintings related to global atrocities of imperialism and white supremacy, and several abstract paintings that demonstrate a through line in Pindell’s practice: after working on traumatic historical projects, the artist decompresses by creating meticulously produced, large-scale abstract works on unstretched canvas.” — The Shed

 “Working on my commission for The Shed has been a very rewarding and healing experience,” said Howardena Pindell. “It allowed me to conceptualize an idea as a result of an experience I had as a child. I put it forth as a performance piece to a group of white women artists at the A.I.R. Gallery, where I was a founder in the early 1970s. They turned it down. (I was the only nonwhite member of the gallery.) The now-realized concept is the film Rope/Fire/Water, the centerpiece of the exhibition.”

Columbus, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 108 x 120 inches. Courtesy the artist, Garth Greenan Gallery,
and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Ko’s Snow Day, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 67 x 72 inches. Courtesy the artist,
Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Plankton Lace #2, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 77 x 88 inches. Courtesy the artist,
Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Four Little Girls, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 108 x 120 inches. Courtesy the artist, Garth Greenan
Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Plankton Lace #1, 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 76 x 86 inches. Courtesy the artist,
Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Rope/Fire/Water, 2020. Digital Video, 19min. Courtesy of The Artist, Commissioned by The Shed.
Slavery Memorial: Lash, 1998 – 99. Mixed media on canvas, 55 1/2 x 136 inches.
Courtesy the artist, Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Slavery Memorial: Lash, 1998 – 99. Mixed media on canvas. 55 1/2 x 136 inches.
Courtesy the artist,Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Canals/Underground Railroad, 2015–2016. Mixed media on canvas, 40 x56 1/2 inches.
Courtesy the artist, Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.

Bringing together Howardena Pindell’s painting and video practice has increasingly gained importance as our current circumstances have progressed,” said Adeze Wilford, Curatorial Assistant at The Shed. “Her intention to bring attention to historical events that have shaped this country through her video, paired with the beauty of her abstract paintings offered as care for the viewer, is vital for this moment. While we cannot turn away from the past, the artist has provided a means to bring us peace as we face the painful legacy of racism in this country.”

Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water was organized by Adeze Wilford, Assistant Curator at The Shed.

Images courtesy The Shed.