Browse By


In the Historical Present will be open from July 8 – October 6, featuring work by Glenn Ligon, Sheila Bridges, and more

New York, June 12, 2019 – The New School presents a new exhibit of commissioned artworks, artist-led engagements and performances, and works drawn from the New School’s art collection and archives in celebration of the university’s Centennial. In the Historical Present conceives of the institution as a script—a set of procedures, methodologies, and discursive practices that unfold over time.

Artists participating in the exhibition include: Daniel Bejar, Sheila Bridges, The Black Lunch Table, Lucia Cuba, Domestic Performance Agency, Nikita Gale, Jonathan Gardenhire, Camilo Godoy, David Hammons, Matthew Jensen, Sue Jeong Ka, Glenn Ligon, Sable Elyse Smith, Caroline Woolard, Shevaun Wright, and Yonkers International Press.

The impetus of the exhibition is a marker of time: a century of The New School’s existence. As such, it simultaneously looks back to take stock of the institution’s legacy, attending to the dynamic yet often hidden and dormant possibilities inherent in the university’s many histories. In the Historical Present envisions the archive as a site of potentiality – latent moments that might become scripts and scores for possible futures. Through commissioned artworks, artist-led engagements and performances, and works drawn from the New School’s art collection and archives, this exhibition conceives of the institution as a script—a set of procedures, methodologies and discursive practices that unfold over time. The exhibition’s title derives from the ‘historical present’ tense—also known as the dramatic or narrative present—the use of a verb in the present tense to refer to an event that took place in the past.

“In the manner of a paradox, In the Historical Present stages a call and response with the school’s many pasts,” the exhibition curators Macushla Robinson and Anna Harsanyi said. “Some of the works in this exhibition trace how the past lives now and others hint at possible futures. Together these works do not form a coherent structure. Rather, they enter into an inconsistent, polyvocal conversation.”

Visitors will read neon reflections on the law and obscenity, engage with paint swatches critiquing entrenched power structures, view tender and erotic photographic portraits, and encounter political slogans from decades past that remain startlingly fresh. Reflecting the pedagogical impetus of an educational institution, many of the works in this exhibition invite audience participation through workshops, performances, and events. Visitors to the exhibition will be invited to try on garments that are also protest placards, move through an iconic early 20th century mural in the Orozco Room, get library books repaired, contribute to an unwieldy course reader, edit Wikipedia to include more artists of color, handle unusual objects to facilitate meetings, and visit every tree within The New School’s perimeter.

The exhibition will also house a dedicated library and archival space revealing the textures of daily life at The New School over the years. Visitors will be able to rifle through slides and peruse materials from The New School Archives that intersect with political and social movements from various decades. The New School’s centennial invites exploration of a legacy to “learn how 1919 was the start of something new.”

In the Historical Present highlights multiple histories that lie behind and within the “new.” A school, a community, a site of discord, a space for innovation: The New School at its 100-year mark offers opportunities for reflection that might become active explorations of our historical present.

Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, The New School
5th Avenue at 13th St.
July 8 – October 6, 2019

Leave a Reply