*This panel discussion is sold out! If seats remain, those without RSVP will be allowed in, however standing room will not be available and guests attending without RSVP may be turned away once the room is full.*
Join us for a panel discussion at the Detroit Institute of Arts with Detroit artists Sydney James, Hubert Massey, and Mario Moore, co-organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts, introductions given by Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum, and Katie Pfohl, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Detroit Institute of Arts.
Organized to accompany the Cranbrook Art Museum’s exhibition Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit, on view at Cranbrook Art Museum through March 3, 2024, this discussion will take place in the DIA’s Rivera Court, the location of Diego Rivera’s iconic Detroit Industry Murals (1932-33).
The Detroit Industry Murals are a hallmark of the DIA and the city of Detroit, and have influenced generations of artists, particularly those part of Detroit’s vibrant contemporary mural movement. During this discussion, James, Massey, and Moore will discuss Rivera’s enduring influence on mural practice in Detroit today. A symbol of creative vibrancy for the city, contemporary mural work also raises questions of representation, equity, and ownership connected to Rivera’s explorations of labor and industry almost a century ago. This vital dialogue among artists will explore how mural work continues to shape Detroit’s artistic and cultural landscape.
Free with registration.
Enter the museum at the John R. Entrance behind the DIA. Parking available in the Museum Parking Lot on John R. Street, south of Kirby Street and north of Warren Avenue for $7.
Mario Moore lives and works in Detroit, where he was born and raised. He attended the College for Creative Studies (BFA Illustration, 2009), Detroit; and Yale University School of Art (MFA Painting, 2013), New Haven, Connecticut.
Mario Moore’s exquisitely rendered realist paintings focus on the personal, social, and political implications of our segregated society. Presenting stories of his own life and those of friends and family, Moore weaves together multiple references to history, art, politics, and literature to complete his narrative.
Moore has been awarded the prestigious Princeton Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University and has participated as an artist-in-residence at Knox College, Duke University, Fountainhead Residency, and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. He has been featured in The New York Times among other publications. In 2021, he had his first museum survey exhibition, Enshrined: Presence + Preservation, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and is a recipient of a Kresge Visual Artist Fellowship in 2023. Moore’s work is in several public and private collections, including the Detroit Institute of Arts; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey; and Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Dr. Hubert Massey was born in Flint, Michigan, but has lived in Detroit since graduating from Grand Valley State University (BA, 1983) and the Slade Institute of Fine Arts at the University of London. Massey received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from his alma mater Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, in 2012.
Massey learned the centuries-old fresco technique from former assistants of legendary artist Diego Rivera when they performed restoration work on the Detroit Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Massey is the only known African American commissioned fresco artist in the United States. Filled with bold, vibrant images, his murals can be spotted throughout the Detroit metropolitan region, appearing in places such as: Mexicantown, Greektown, Campus Martius, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Athletic Club, and numerous other landmark buildings. Frescoes created by Dr. Massey throughout the state of Michigan are located at Huntington Place, Detroit Athletic Club, Grand Valley State University, and the Flint Institute of Arts. Most recently, Massey completed a fresco mural at the Huntington Bank National Headquarters building in downtown Detroit. Massey was awarded a Kresge Visual Artist Fellowship in 2011.
Sydney James lives and works in Detroit, where she was born and raised. James attended the College for Creative Studies (BFA Illustration, 2001) in Detroit.
James is proudly a girl raised in and by Detroit, with the colors and brushwork of her painting as strikingly defiant and ever-changing as the city itself. James’ murals have transformed Detroit’s skyline and its arts narrative. Her work appears on walls, canvas, fabric, Vans shoes, and “on whatever she damned well chooses.” In paintings and murals, James places Black women first, never last or forgotten. The act of painting is a pointed mission to let each brushstroke spark conversations long silenced, and to boldly rewrite the narrative in hues evoking the complexities of Black reality, joy, pain, and phoenix-like resilience.
She is a co-founder of the biannual BLKOUT Walls street mural festival which debuted in Detroit in 2021. James’ artwork is featured by major marketing brands, such as: Vans, PepsiCo, Ford Motor Company, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Lions, as well as being one of the faces of the Lip Bar brand of cosmetics.
An awardee of the 2017 Kresge Foundation Fellowship, James’ work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Inner State Gallery, PlayGround Detroit, Collective Detroit Gallery, Detroit Artist Market, Red Bull House of Art Detroit, and Janice Charach Gallery, as well as the Art Beats + Lyrics traveling exhibition. James’ murals have been exhibited in New Orleans, Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, in addition to Pow!Wow! Hawai’i, Pow!Wow! Long Beach, Pow!Wow! Worchester, and across six continents.
Katie Pfohl is a curator and writer who centers collaborations with artists and community. Her work seeks to amplify the voices of artists, foster connections between people, and create space to engage with the urgent issues of our time.
Pfohl is Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. At DIA she is working on a reinstallation of the museum’s contemporary galleries, collaborating with curatorial colleagues as well as local and national advisors to reimagine the space and collection. She is also expanding the scope and impact of the museum’s contemporary collection through acquisitions and research, and developing new exhibitions, projects, and partnerships. From 2015 to 2022, she was Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art. At NOMA she curated almost thirty exhibitions; acquired or commissioned over one hundred works of art by local, national, and international artists; worked collaboratively on innovative educational programming and community engagement; and reinstalled the museum’s twentieth-century and contemporary galleries.
Pfohl completed her Ph.D. in art history at Harvard University in 2014, and in 2006 she participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. She has held positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the LSU Museum of Art.
Laura Mott is the Chief Curator at Cranbrook Art Museum and the co-curator of Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit alongside artist Mario Moore. She joined Cranbrook Art Museum in November 2013 following an active career as a curator and lecturer in both the United States and Europe. A selection of recent exhibitions includes Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other (2023), Tunde Olaniran: Made A Universe (2022), Olga de Amaral: To Weave A Rock (2021), Allie McGhee: Banana Moon Horn (2021), Shapeshifters: Transformations in Contemporary Art (2020), Landlord Colors: On Art, Economy, and Materiality (2019), The Truth Is I Hear You (2016), Nick Cave: Here Hear (2015). Previously, she has held various curatorial positions at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Gothenburg Konsthall, IASPIS in Stockholm, Mission 17 in San Francisco, and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In 2016, she was the recipient of a Warhol Curatorial Fellowship.
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