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BRING REALITY THE

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N O L O N GE RE M PTY. O RG #BringInTheReality


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bring in the reality

looks back on five years of No Longer Empty. What started as a response to urban vacancy, in the wake of the financial crisis, evolved into an intentional yet organic approach to creating and presenting art to diverse audiences. Through over 20 exhibitions incorporating our three pillars of site specificity, community responsiveness, and collaborative co–programming, we have kept pushing boundaries in the ways art is made, how it is presented and who the audiences for this art might be. Working in vacant or underutilized spaces in urban contexts, we transform sites into temporary hubs of art, performance in its many modes, discourse and education. No Longer Empty’s model serves the diversity and cultural vibrancy reflected in communities citywide, truly seeking to provide enriching experiences to both frequent museum/ gallery visitors as well as those new to art. We are grateful to No Longer Empty curator, Rachel Raphaela Gugelberger, who so expertly curated this exhibition. We would also like to extend our deep gratitude to our hosts, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, for inviting us to present this exhibition. The values of the Foundation, its commitment to democratic values and social justice, to the environment and the fostering of arts and culture that enriches communities, resonates so strongly with the mission of No Longer Empty. We are proud and humbled to be in their midst. manon slome , chief curator

naomi hersson - ringskog , founding executive director no longer empty

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his 2014 book Black Prophetic Fire, Cornel West speaks to the enduring resonance of blues, jazz, hip-hop and the writings of Malcolm X within the tradition of parrhesia, saying that the civil rights leader “would never deodorize his discourse; it was always: ‘bring in the funk, bring in the truth, bring in the reality.’” The exhibition Bring in the Reality presents works that embody this rhetorical role by speaking candidly, freely and boldly; by speaking truth to power. Some of the works underline the urgency of dissent. Some reflect on the personal risk involved when speaking out against authority. Together, they reveal the potency of exploring inequality in all its variant forms—racial, gender, social, political and economic—at the intersection of storytelling and action. Acknowledging not only the burden of history but also of our present moment, Bring in the Reality highlights the power of counter-narrative through portraiture, video documents, interactive data surveys, sculptural anecdotes, archives, allegorical paintings, slogans and

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aphorisms. Organized by No Longer Empty (NLE), the exhibition includes works previously commissioned for or featured in NLE exhibitions, as well as interrelated works by NLE-community artists, collectives and collaborations. Whereas bronze sculptures, for example, traditionally memorialize society’s elite—leaders, heroes, religious figures—John Ahearn’s painted plaster casts of living figures acknowledge members of New York’s communities. And while his 1992 trio of bronze sculptures of his Bronx neighbors—Raymond with his pit bull, Daleesha on roller skates and Corey with his boom box and basketball—had been decried as sending the wrong message, they indelibly capture a life-force that transcends social status, placing the real and unromanticized on

John Ahearn, detail of Ernestine and Three Friends (Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Women’s Shelter), 1992, in the artists’ studio. Courtesy of the artist.


a pedestal that challenges the notion that only a certain kind of individual is worthy of veneration. Through the initiation of Hope Sandrow, founder of the Artists/ Homeless Shelter Collaborative in the early 1980s, Ahearn and other artists met weekly with residents of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to empower women through the creation of art. There, Ahearn met Ernestine, making a plaster cast of her that would come to form the 1992 work, Ernestine and Three Friends (Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Women’s Shelter), which hung in the shelter until recently, when Ahearn removed it for restoration. It is being seen here, outside of its original context for the first time.

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In Criminal Women: Political Matters, an ongoing series of drawings begun in 2002, artist and activist Carolina Caycedo presents portraits of “women who have been criminalized legally or socially, for their actions or for their thoughts.” Copying mass media images of such figures as Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Panthers jailed for killing a New Jersey state trooper, Carolina Caycedo, Ulrike Meinhof from the series Criminal Women, Political Matters (2002-ongoing). Pen, pencil, and marker on paper; 11.5 x 8.5 in. each; 13 x 9.5 in. framed. Courtesy of Instituto de Visión and the artist.


and Ulrike Meinhof, a co-founder of the WA N T E D Red Army Faction FITS DESCRIPTION who allegedly committed suicide in prison. Caycedo subverts traditional notions of femininity by subjectively reconstructing the normally patriarchal account of social dissent, armed resistance and radicalism. “There is an implicit fascination with violence, and an acceptance that women can be, think, and act evil,” says Caycedo, describing the series as an “exorcising ritual” that allows her to channel her own anger through the appropriation of each case study. CITY OF NEW YORK

PROTECTION BUREAU Wanted Flyer# 17389894

CITY OF NEW YORK

PERPETRATOR • PROBABLE CAUSE TO STOP AND QUESTION

UNK, UNK / MALE / BLACK HEIGHT 5’11”, WEIGHT 180 lbs., HAIR BLACK, EYES UNKNOWN LAST KNOWN ADDRESS: 000 UNKNOWN UNKNOWN

On Wednesday July 2, 2014, at approximately 11:15 PM, a male black, approximately 19-25 years of age was wearing a black hoodie and blue denim pants. The male was observed standing in front of building at 1320 Amsterdam Avenue. The police allege that the suspect entered apartment complex as officers approached. Suspect has previously been stopped and searched numerous times and is not armed and is not dangerous. Suspect resembles many who have a known criminal past.

The suspect is wanted by his family, friends and neighbors. To download copies of this poster and display it: www.wanted-project.com Investigator: Assigned: Criminalization Task Force Case# 2014-89 Complaint Report# 2014-007-01012

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Portraiture, or rather likeness, is also used by Dread Scott, to address the criminalization, racial profiling and mass incarceration of black and Latino youths in the United States. In the community-based project Wanted (2014), created for the exhibition If You Build It in Sugar Hill, Harlem, a series of posters and flyers seek several youths, including a Hispanic female because she “appeared to be on the lookout.” Another suspects a black male because he “exhibited dress and behavior typical of alleged gang members.” And in Wanted (sketch session video), a former police forensic sketch artist leads a Dread Scott, Wanted (flyer) for No Longer Empty, If You Build It, 2014. Offset print; 11 x 8.5 in. Courtesy of the artist.


sketch session presented as performance, revealing the centrality of race by presenting photographs, for example, to assist in identifying precise skin tones. Police profiling is monumentalized in Nari Ward’s Suspicious Bulge (2012), a larger-than-life shredded police document known as a “Stop, Question and Frisk Report Worksheet” that highlights check boxes that officers use to assess a potential criminal, such as “furtive movement,” “disguises” and “suspicious bulge.” Composed of wood, magnets, nylon and printed fleece blankets, the work can be read as an ersatz quilt. And if, as it is said, every quilt tells a story, then Ward’s tightly-knit narrative reads like a deconstructed police procedural in which suspected criminals are reduced to a small set of anatomical parts and behavioral descriptions.

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left : Nari Ward, Suspicious Bulge, 2012. Wood, magnets, nylon, printed fleece blankets; 72 x 48 x 4 inches. Photo: Gregory La Rico. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. right : Radcliffe Bailey, Theorist’s Throne, 2012. Mixed media; 49 x 15 x 15 inches. © Radcliffe Bailey. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


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The narrative space of Radcliffe Bailey’s symbol-laden tableau features sculptures created from antique furnishings and objects that invoke colonial America, slavery, the Civil War, the 1960s civil rights movement, collective consciousness and personal history to explore the black struggle and race relations in the United States. Theorist’s Throne (2012), for example, which features a miniature black peacock chair encased in black glitter, suggests one of the most enduring and iconic images of 1960s Black Power: a photographic poster of Black Panthers co-founder Huey P. Newton in black beret and leather, sitting in a peacock chair amidst ancient African shields and a zebra skin, gripping a shotgun in one hand and a spear in the other. In Bailey’s remix, the chair becomes the fetishized object, a metonym for Black Power. But, miniaturized and sterilized under a bell jar, it has been reduced to a subject of scientific examination, more suited to a cabinet of curiosities than the militancy of the milieu to which it refers. Also appropriating imagery from an iconic photograph, Hank Willis Thomas plays with the idea of racial hybridity in Seeker (2012). Based on an image from the vast photography collection depicting African Americans acquired by Emory University from collector Robert Langmuir, this digital C-print presents fellow artist Sanford Biggers as a remixed minstrel in top hat and tails, his face and clothing bisected into two halves—one white and one black. Reappropriating a flagrantly racist caricature from America’s vaudevillian past, Thomas plays up the entertainment value of a


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Hank Willis Thomas, Seeker, 2012. Digital c-print and plexi with Lumisty film; 48 ½ x 40 inches; 49 x 41 x 4 inches (framed). Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Sanford Biggers. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


vaudeville performer, and yet Biggers’ minstrel is not in the act of performing, but rather captured in a moment of reflection.

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The smiling minstrel cliché is evoked in Nari Ward’s Sugar Hill Smiles, a work commissioned for No Longer Empty’s 2014 exhibition If You Build It in which the artist walked Manhattan’s Sugar Hill district—central to the Harlem Renaissance—with a hand-operated canning machine and asked passersby to smile into the mirror affixed to the bottom of each can, then sealing and labeling it. Recalling Piero Manzoni’s 1961 “Artist Shit” project and the “higgler carts” used by Jamaican street vendors, Sugar Hill Smiles is less playful than it seems. Not only is the work a critique of Sugar Hill Golden Ale, a beer that has nothing to do with the historically black neighborhood whose name it appropriates, but each can was made with the help of a member of the community, with proceeds benefiting local education initiatives. A critique of the contemporary branding of Harlem in the face of rampant development, Ward’s collection of smiles serves as both an archive and conceptual portrait of a rapidly changing neighborhood. The capitalist business model is also examined in works from the sculptural series Power Ties by Guerra de la Paz, the collaborative duo of Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz. Inspired

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Nari Ward, Sugar Hill Smiles for No Longer Empty, If You Build It, 2014. Photo: Oluremi Onabanjo. Courtesy of No Longer Empty. bottom : Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering from the series How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette for the Lumpenproletariat), 2014. Digital C-Prints; 36 x 24 in. each; exhibition prints. Courtesy of the artist.


by the events of the 2008 financial crisis, Sealing the Deal (2009), which depicts two snake-headed mannequins dressed as businessmen shaking hands, addresses the corruption and shady deals that led to global economic collapse. Monday through Friday (2005) represents the work week with five nooses made of ties, drawing connections between chattel slavery and wage labor. Inequity and socially unacceptable working conditions are the focus of 10 Simple Steps to Your Own Virtual Sweatshop with Telematics Manufacturing (2008), a video by Jeff Crouse and Stephanie Rothenberg created in the online virtual world Second Life. “Are oppressive labor laws and expensive real estate prices getting in the way of your dream of owning your own shop?” asks the video’s narrator, who shows viewers how to manufacture goods using telecommunications to direct remote human workers. In this virtual world, environmental concerns and activism are a thing of the past. With steps that include building a virtual factory, hiring avatars and paying wages determined by the local economy, this indentured servitude model includes modest housing and creative outlets to combat depression, the number one cause of unproductivity.

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Lest anyone complain about their circumstances, Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s Guerra de la Paz, Monday through Friday, 2005. Men’s ties, wire, aluminum, wall brackets; 55 x 160 x 20 in. Courtesy of Guerra de la Paz.


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Jeff Crouse and Stephanie Rothenberg,10 Simple Steps to Your Own Virtual Sweatshop with Telematics Manufacturing, 2008. Second Life; duration: 8 min. Courtesy of Jeff Crouse and Stephanie Rothenberg.


graphic text-based prints from the series How to Suffer Politely and Other Etiquette for the Lumpenproletariat (2014), offer quasi-inspirational aphorisms for the suffering, such as “Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering” and “Tell Your Struggle with Triumphant Humor.” Coined by Karl Marx, the word “Lumpenproletariat”—from the German “Lumpenproletarier,” literally meaning “miscreant” or “rag”—refers to a social strata for which Marxian class-consciousness is improbable. Rasheed’s ironylaced maxims challenge the dominant narrative of progress in the United States, loudly indicting the policing of affect in the face of the systematic political and physical violence against poor people of color.

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The growing wealth and income gap in the United States is encapsulated by “We are the 99%,” a political slogan coined in 2012 by the Occupy movement that refers to the concentration of wealth among the top earning 1%, a tiny minority within the upper class. Dread Scott and Kyle Goen take the slogan a step further with their 2011 graphic prints We are the 99% (English, Arabic and Spanish) to bring the Occupy movement into solidarity with the Arab Spring revolts across the Middle East and the popular uprisings in Europe. Revealing some of the faces behind statistics, the Spanish collective Enmedio (Spanish for “among”) designed We are not numbers, a work commissioned by NLE for How Much Do I Owe You?, a 2012 exhibition organized in response to the Great Recession. Conceived as an action, the work involved pasting portraits of evicted Spaniards onto the windows of the responsible banks


across the country, along with charts featuring eviction statistics, so that viewers learn that in 2012, for example, there was an eviction in Spain every 8 minutes. Included in Bring in the Reality are postcards that portray evictees accompanied by brief biographies and the logo and address of the bank responsible for each eviction. Viewers are encouraged to send their own messages to the banks. Viewers are also encouraged to participate in Jennifer Dalton’s installation Reckoning (2012), also commissioned for How Much Do I Owe You?, by filling out a survey that reflects on their personal relationship to surplus and debt as it relates to a set of artist-designated demographics and contexts. Upon filling out the survey, respondents are rewarded with buttons that label them as “giver” or “receiver.” Calculating and estimating the data collected from approximately 900 surveys filled out during the course of How Much Do I Owe You? resulted in visual graphics drawings that revealed, among other things, that women give more to work than men; however, men give more to country.

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Mel Chin also takes on the role of citizen

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Dread Scott & Kyle Goen, We are the 99% (English), 2011. Screen print; 21 x 16 in.; 26.75 x 20.75 in. framed. Edition 7 of 7. Courtesy of the artists. middle : Enmedio, We Are Not Numbers for No Longer Empty, How Much Do I Owe You?, 2012. Postcards; 6 x 4.25 in. each. Courtesy of No Longer Empty. bottom : Jennifer Dalton, Reckoning for No Longer Empty, How Much Do I Owe You?, 2012. Plexiglass, memo pads, buttons; installation dimensions variable. Photo: Whitney Browne Photography. Courtesy of the artist.


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scientist, collecting messages from Bronx community members for the 2012 NLE exhibition This Side of Paradise at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx. Bequeathed by millionaire Andrew Freedman, the Home—intended as a refuge for rich elderly persons who had lost their fortunes—provided all the trappings of an upper crust lifestyle, from white glove dinner service to opera performances organized by a social committee. The exhibition placed the Home’s socioeconomic history within the context of present-day Bronx. In the video document S.O.S. Reloaded: Bronx, Chin presents video portraits accompanied by individual messages rendered as news tickers at the bottom and a soundtrack of their heartbeats. A copy of the video was sent to President Obama. Also commissioned for This Side of Paradise, Melanie

Mel Chin, S.O.S. RELOADED: Bronx for No Longer Empty, This Side of Paradise, 2012. Video document; duration: 6 min., 18 sec. Courtesy of the artist.


Crean’s Once Upon a Time in the Bronx was a community-engaged collaborative project that provided a literary mechanism in which teenagers could re-imagine classic fairy tales based on their own realities. Developed with teenagers from BronxWorks, a human service organization near the Andrew Freedman Home, the project began with a survey of media representations of the Bronx, evolved into individual storytelling and theater, and culminated in a deck of 165 playing cards. The cards and ensuing prints allowed for multiple compositions and re-presentations that facilitated conversations on difficult topics.

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Storytelling is central to Tim Rollins and K.O.S. In 1984, Rollins founded Kids of Survival, an experimental Bronxbased teacher-student program in which students relate their personal experiences to studies of literature, politics and history, and produce allegorical paintings, sculpture and drawings. In the 2012 mixed-media painting series Invisible Man (after Ralph Ellison), pages from the titular novel serve as background onto which the capital letters “IM� are boldly rendered in a graphic Melanie Crean, Once Upon a Time in the Bronx for No Longer Empty, This Side of Paradise, 2012 (detail). Three silkscreen prints and customized card deck; prints 24 x 19 in. each; cards 3.5 x 2.5 in. each; box 2.75 x 3.75 x 3 in. Courtesy of No Longer Empty.


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Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Invisible Man (after Ralph Ellison), 2012. Matte acrylic and book pages on canvas; 24 x 24 in. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. bottom : Scherezade Garcia-Vazquez, Cathedral/Catedral for No Longer Empty, If You Build It, 2014. Inflated inner tubes, gold paint, safety ties, airport tags; 8 x 4.5 ft. Photo: William Vazquez photography. Courtesy of the artist.


font. In response to the murder of a fellow student in the early 1990s and a New York Times headline reading “Murder Victim,” the shorthand “IM” interconnect both victim and man to the civil rights movement, referencing Ernest Withers’ iconic photograph of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, who held placards that read “I am a man.” The photograph was taken on the 53rd day of the strike, just a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The color of the paint (in this case a dark blue hue) represents each participant in the project series, culminating in a testimonial political declaration and portrait in the face of ongoing oppression. Allegorical narratives weave through the works of Scherezade Garcia-Vazquez and Iliana Emilia Garcia, touching on such themes as migration, community and salvation. Garcia-Vazquez’s Cathedral/Catedral (2014), a work commissioned for the NLE exhibition If You Build It, is an eerie and judicious reminder of the tragedies of migration. Composed of a tower of gold-painted inner tubes adorned with safety ties, airport tags and portraits of Lady Liberty, Cathedral/Catedral serves as an altar to migrants. In The Pursuit of Happiness, also commissioned for If Your Build It, Garcia employs the chair as symbolic motif and surrogate to consider the emotional topography at the crossroads of international, national and community identity. Quoting one of three inalienable rights as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and as promised to American citizens, seven wooden chair marionettes bear inscriptions that speak to the diversity and resilience of the movement of

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people.

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Storytelling and memory, both individual and collective, converge in Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s archival installation No Instructions for Assembly, Activation VIII (2015). The work is an iteration of No Instructions for Assembly, Activation IV (2014), a situation-specific installation created for the exhibition If You Build It in which the artist re-created an ephemeral archive of her family’s home through over 1,400 objects of material culture and audio of her father telling family stories. Activation VIII transforms a corner in the Nathan Cummings Foundation into a domestic scene appointed with all the signposts of a lived-in home and markers of identity: found and personal family photographs, vinyl album covers, periodicals, books and religious effects are scattered throughout, some neatly put away and others in the midst of use. Fabric drapes the sofa and an Islamic prayer rug rests on the floor. Atop a coffee table, copies of Ebony and Life magazines with cover stories on “The Black Middle Class” and “The Negro and the Cities: The Cry That Will Be Heard,” respectively, highlight two distinctly different takes on race and class. One feels at once locked in a very particular moment in time (as suggested by its decidedly analog staging), yet fixed in a loop of living history. “Assembly,” with its

Iliana Emilia Garcia, The Pursuit of Happiness for No Longer Empty, If You Build It, 2014. Wood, ropes, wires; installation dimensions variable. Photo: William Vazquez photography. Courtesy of the artist.


dual connotations of empowered gathering and practical building/making, suggests narrative while being deceptive. Rasheed describes the installation as “a space to interrupt and intervene on the institutional archive to provide discursive territories for the mapping of histories that are buried in footnotes or margins.” In the face of enduring inequality, homelessness, racism and police brutality, the works in Bring in the Reality highlight a commitment to an alteration in the social order through the ongoing relationship between art and politics. The reality is that 60,000 people in New York City are homeless, an all-time high. And yet the Federal Reserve recently announced that the nation’s biggest banks would be able to withstand another financial crisis without requiring bailouts. On April 23, 2015, a New York Times opinion piece outlined how incarceration and early deaths account for 1.5 million black men missing from daily life. The Black Lives Matter movement, founded after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin, has been keeping tabs: every 28 hours, a black man, woman or child is killed by police, highlighting America’s vast disparity in the use of police force and driving home questions about racism and the use of force by law enforcement. As I write this, Baltimore is reeling from the illegal arrest and homicide of 25-year-old Freddie Gray at the hands of six police officers. And across the globe, lives are lost en route to their better livelihoods: the International Organization for Migration recently

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reported that more than 1,750 migrants perished in the Mediterranean since the start of the year—more than 30 times higher than the same period in 2014.

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In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on the television news program Democracy Now!, Cornel West said that Black Prophetic Fire is connected to the four questions that W.E.B. Du Bois wrestled with: “How does integrity face oppression? What does honesty do in the face of deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? And how does virtue meet brute force?” In a multiplicity of methods, devices and techniques, the artists represented in Bring in the Reality wrestle with the very same questions and “bring in the reality” in their own unique ways. While most of the works touch on themes seemingly ripped from today’s headlines, they reveal a continuum: the names and numbers may change, but the economic, social, racial, religious and political issues are still very much the same. They are not brought back to life, so to speak, by the artists, but by historic recurrence to which the artists continue to respond. –

rachel raphaela gugelberger

acknowledgements

I am grateful to Brandi Stewart, Maurine Knighton and Shelly Harper for their collaborative spirit. Special thanks to Halim Badawi; Instituto de Visión; Jack Shainman Gallery; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; Lenox Hill Neighborhood House; Julian Navarro; SRI Fine Art Services; Hope Sandrow; Squid Frames; curatorial intern Emilia Shaffer-Del Valle; and Reynard Loki.


the nathan cummings foundation Rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community, The Nathan Cummings Foundation seeks to build a socially and economically just society that values nature and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities.

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no longer empty

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Founded in 2009, No Longer Empty’s mission is to activate engagement with contemporary art through curated community-responsive and sitespecific exhibitions and programming that revive underutilized spaces. Manon Slome, President & Chief Curator Naomi Hersson-Ringskog, Founding Executive Director Rachel Raphaela Gugelberger, Associate Curator Lindsay Smilow, Director of External Affairs Patra Jongjitirat, Design & Development Associate Marcus Galen Mitchell, Curator of Programming Ayana Hosten, Education Manager


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ON VIEW: MAY 13–SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 NATHAN CUMMINGS FOUNDATION 475 TENTH AVENUE, 14TH FLOOR MONDAY–FRIDAY, 10AM–4PM BY APPOINTMENT ONLY To view the exhibition, please contact the Nathan Cummings Foundation at exhibits@nathancummings.org

NO LONGER EMPTY: BRING IN THE REALITY  

A catalogue published on the occasion of "Bring in the Reality" (2015), an exhibition at the Nathan Cummings Foundation that looks back on f...

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