Uptown is the most recent exhibition curated by the ever-elegant New Yorker writer and culture critic Hilton Als. The show features personal portraits of people of color made by painter Alice Neel in New York City over five decades. The curator/writer says it all:
I recall first seeing [Neel's] work in a book, and what shocked me more than her outrageous and accurate sense of color and form – did we really look like that? We did! – was the realisation that her subject was my humanity.
By painting the Latinos, blacks, and Asians, Neel was breaking away from the canon of Western art. She was not, in short, limiting her view to people who looked like herself. Rather, she was opening portraiture up to include those persons who were not generally seen in its history. Alice Neel, Uptown, the first comprehensive look at Neel’s portraits of people of colour, is an attempt to honour not only what Neel saw, but the generosity behind her seeing.
My prediction is that fans of artists like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (myself included) will get a lot out of this exhibition. Go see the stories at Victoria Miro Gallery.