Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, at the Museum of Modern Art (closing May 31), elucidates, confronts, and transfigures the brutal social, physical, and architectural legacies of the systematic abuse and disenfranchisement of African American and African diaspora communities. Eleven commissioned projects envision ten cities across the United States and transformative spaces that galvanize Black life, from the kitchen and the front porch to the street and the spaceship.
Much of the initial curatorial work was to undo the conventions of exhibition making while also considering how architecture is conceived and produced. Enlisting an interdisciplinary advisory committee, the curators, Sean Anderson and Mabel O. Wilson, with curatorial assistant Arièle Dionne-Krosnick, developed multiple resources to counter the dearth of material in MoMA’s collections. The committee became both the exhibition’s archive while also acting as an invaluable guide for all of the participants as they conceptualized their projects.
Over the course of the exhibition’s development, ten of the exhibition participants formed the not-for-profit initiative, the Black Reconstruction Collective (BRC), intended to amplify “knowledge, production, and spatial practices by individuals and organizations that further the reconstruction projects” of the future. Combined with a Field Guide and an online course, the BRC and exhibition in turn galvanize professional and educational communities to ask, for and by whom is architecture imagined?
Anderson and Wilson describe the commissioned works by architects, designers, and artists for ten cities across the United States as a means to “navigate the ways in which Blackness, as both a conceptual orientation and a way of being, is embedded in the built environment.” Moderated by Mpho Matsipa and Jess Myers, a discussion with the curators provides an opportunity to trace the arc of the exhibition from conception to realization while speculating on possible futures for reconstructions at all scales.
Sean Anderson is an associate curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art.
Arièle Dionne-Krosnick is a PhD student in architecture at McGill University in Montreal. She was a curatorial assistant in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art from 2016-2020.
Mabel O. Wilson is the Nancy and George E. Rupp Professor in Architecture and also a professor in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies.
Mpho Matsipa is the curator of African Mobilities, a multi-sited, transnational experimental research platform and curatorial project. She is a research fellow at WiSER and a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Jess Myers is an urbanist and the host of Here There Be Dragons, an urbanism podcast that explores the impact of public policy and cultural attitudes on city residents’ feelings of safety. She is an assistant professor in the architecture department at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Reconstructions features work by Emanuel Admassu, Germane David Barnes, Sekou Cooke, J. Yolande Daniels, Felecia Davis, Mario Gooden, Walter Hood, Olalekan Jeyifous, V. Mitch McEwen, and Amanda Williams, as well as new photographs and a film by artist David Hartt.