Buchanan’s sculptures of the late 1970s placed the concise forms of Post-Minimalism in dialogue with the realities of urban decay and social displacement. As the artist recalled, “I began casting small cement pieces using old bricks and milk cartons as forms in a fourth floor walk-up in East Orange, New Jersey. From nine to five, I was that city’s health educator . . . So I had to do this late at night.”
Beverly Buchanan frequently drew upon her great-uncle Walter’s photographic research archive of Southern tenant farm communities in the 1920s and 1930s. These images inspired her processes of research and documentation through photography.
Poetry figured regularly in Buchanan’s work, in both her own writing and her collaborations with friends and lovers. In 1990, while in residence at the Arts Exchange in Atlanta, Buchanan asked Executive Director Alice Lovelace to collaborate on a book. Buchanan created drawings to accompany Lovelace’s poems.
As a sculptor, Buchanan was interested in what she described as the “inexhaustible number of ways in which and from which the composition is seen.” The idea that a single sculpture could afford multiple perspectives was a principal tenet in Minimalism during the 1960s and was later carried through to Post-Minimalism.
The most recent work in the exhibition, Old Colored School brings together Buchanan’s focus on everyday institutional architecture, such as that of schools, churches, and homes, with the intricate play of mottled color first developed in her works from the 1970s.
Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals
October 21, 2016–March 5, 2017
Beverly Buchanan (1940–2015) explored the relationship between memory—personal, historical, and geographical—and place. Engaging with the most vanguard movements of her time, including Land Art, Post-Minimalism, and feminism, she linked political and social consciousness to the formal aesthetics of abstraction.
The most comprehensive exhibition of Buchanan’s work to date, Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals presents approximately 200 objects, including sculpture, painting, photography, drawing, and notebooks of the artist’s writing as well as documentation of performances. A new video installation of her existing earthworks is presented for the first time.
Emphasizing how Buchanan’s work resisted easy categorization, this exhibition investigates her dialogue not only with a range of styles, materials, and movements, but also with gender, race, and identity. Works on view examine histories of locations where she lived and worked, including Florida, New York, and Georgia.
According to Buchanan, “… a lot of my pieces have the word 'ruins' in their titles because I think that tells you this object has been through a lot and survived—that’s the idea behind the sculptures…it’s like, 'Here I am; I’m still here!' “
Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals is organized by guest curators Jennifer Burris and Park McArthur, and coordinated by Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and Cora Michael, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.
Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Brooklyn Museum's Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee.
Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong series of exhibitions celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.