History Is Not an Open Book

Alma Thomas, “Carnival of Autumn Leaves” (1973), acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 inches. Collection of halley k. harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld, New York (courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY)

STONY BROOK, New York — University museums and galleries don’t often get the credit they deserve for the important roles they play in art history. I was reminded of this when I went to see the exhibition Revisiting 5 + 1 at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery at Stony Brook University (November 10, 2022–March 31, 2023), curated by Elise Armani, Amy Kahng, and Gabriella Shypula. Artist and Stony Brook professor Howardena Pindell, art historian and curator Katy Siegel, and the Zuccaire’s director and curator, Karen Levitov, also helped shape the exhibition. In Revisiting 5 + 1, the three curators examine and expand upon 5 + 1, a groundbreaking exhibition held at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (now Stony Brook University) in 1969. The timing of this exhibition resonates with the original on many levels.

In the late 1960s, during a violent era marked by the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War, and political assassinations, the English curator, art critic, and new Stony Brook professor Lawrence Alloway invited the Guyana-born British abstract artist and art critic Frank Bowling to curate a show of work by Black artists.

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