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Projects: Garrett Bradley

The Museum of Modern Art

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The Museum of Modern Art will present Projects: Garrett Bradley, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York, in the Museum’s street-level galleries. This exhibition, presented as part of a multiyear partnership between The Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem, will feature a multichannel video installation, America (2019), a work organized around 12 short black-and-white films shot by Bradley and set to a score by Trevor Mathison and Udit Duseja. Among her original short vignettes, Bradley intersperses footage from Lime Kiln Club Field Day, an unreleased 1914 film believed to be the oldest surviving feature-length film with an all-Black cast. With America, Bradley imagines and pictures Black figures whose lives have been lost to history. Projects: Garrett Bradley is organized by Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem, with Legacy Russell, Associate Curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The Library of Congress has estimated that 70 percent of the feature-length films made in the US between 1912 and 1929 have been lost. It is in these years that Bradley’s America finds its footing. Her evocative vignettes cite historical events, ranging from African American classical composer and baritone singer Harry T. Burleigh’s publication of the iconic spiritual “Deep River” in 1917, to the murder of popular jazz bandleader James Reese Europe in 1919, to the founding of baseball’s Negro National League (NNL) in 1920, and more. By including borrowed footage from Lime Kiln Club Field Day, Bradley also shines light on the history of a film radically progressive for its time. Lime Kiln Club Field Day evokes Black intimacy and a convivial sharing of space that celebrates Black vernacular movement and expression. This film had never been seen publicly until 2014, after it was rediscovered and restored by MoMA. By revisiting the recovery of this lost work and by giving lost stories visual life, Bradley considers how film impacts our ability to imagine history’s relationship to contemporary life. Bradley has said of her work, “I see America as a template for how visual storytelling and the assembly of images can serve as an archive of the past and a document of the present.”

The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series is made possible in part by the Elaine Dannheisser Foundation and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

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America, 2019, dir. Garrett Bradley, courtesy the filmmaker

America, 2019, dir. Garrett Bradley, courtesy the filmmaker

America, 2019, dir. Garrett Bradley, courtesy the filmmaker

America, 2019, dir. Garrett Bradley, courtesy the filmmaker