November 12, 2019

Barbara Chase-Riboud in conversation with Claudia Rankine and Marta Kuzma

Yale School of Art

Barbara Chase-Riboud, The Albino, 1972 (reinstalled 1994 as All That Rises Must Converge/Black). Bronze with black patina, wool and other fibers; 180 x 126 x 30 inches. © Barbara Chase-Riboud. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Hosted in conjunction with the series of public events organized by the Yale School of Art in celebration of its 150th anniversary and its status as a co-educational professional school of art, acclaimed artist and poet Barbara Chase-Riboud will speak as the anniversary year’s Honorary Lecturer with Yale University’s Professor of Poetry Claudia Rankine and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean and Professor of Art Marta Kuzma in a public conversation on the evening of Thursday, November 21.

In 1960, Chase-Riboud became the first known African-American woman to receive an MFA from what was then the Yale School of Architecture and Design. Her return to New Haven marks a significant historical moment for the Yale School of Art. It took nearly a century—ninety-one years since the School’s opening—for the first known woman of color to be acknowledged as an artist in the way white women of privilege had enjoyed since 1869. Likewise, the School of Art was limited to male leadership until just three years ago, when Marta Kuzma was appointed the first woman dean in the School’s history in 2016. In an unflinching conversation, Chase-Riboud, Rankine, and Kuzma will discuss the overwhelming roles that race and gender have played—and continue to play—in spaces of institutional power such as Yale, and the ways in which Chase-Riboud’s practice has informed, and in many ways led, the development of abstraction in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will also pursue Chase-Riboud’s life as part of the African diaspora in Paris in the 1960s.

During her time at the School and in the nearly six decades since, Chase-Riboud has developed a profound and nuanced artistic practice that reaches from sculpture and drawing to poetry and nonfiction, engaging with enlightened understandings of history, identity, and a sense of place. Her celebrated work operates on several dichotomies that have become central to her practice: hard/soft, male/female, flat/three-dimensional, Western/non-Western, stable/fluid, figurative/abstract, powerful/delicate, brutal/beautiful, violence/harmony. In 1974, she published her first book of poetry, From Memphis & Peking, edited by Toni Morrison and published by Random House, to critical acclaim. With the encouragement of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in 1979 she published her first novel, Sally Hemings (Viking Press), which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Chase-Riboud has been the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, and her work can be found in the permanent collections of major institutions worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art—where she became the youngest artist ever collected by their permanent collection—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ministry of Culture in France as well as the National Collections of France, and the Smithsonian African American Museum, among many others.

Claudia Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University in the departments of African American Studies and English. She is author of five collections of poetry, two plays, numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Rankine was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2016, and she won a distinguished Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. For her book Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.

The Yale School of Art is proud to present this historic dialogue between its first woman dean, its first known African-American woman graduate, and an acclaimed poet, essayist and scholar who can speak to the social and cultural criticisms Chase-Riboud addresses through her work. This event is hosted in cooperation with both the Department of African-American Studies at Yale and the Yale School of Architecture. Full information.

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