The works here bring us in, offer a hand, and a bit of tenderness—they come together to think about care. They highlight the networks of support that exist among friends, across generations of family, and between all manner of loved ones, showing how care work is essential. In turn, the artworks may perform a bit of care for the viewer, offering a place to rest the mind and eyes.
How do we take care of each other? We hold space for each other—space to talk, to feel, and to lighten the weight of the world. Untitled (1990/2000), by Carrie Mae Weems, who is known for her sensitive photographs of Black interior life, captures an everyday but intimate moment shared by two figures who lean into a private space all their own. Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Nwantinti (2012), Malick Sidibé’s Vue de Dos (2002), and Elizabeth Catlett’s Mother and Child (1993) pay attention to the loving actions that link people: a head in a lap, an arm encircling a waist, shoulders gently brushing up against each another, a hand on a back. Sadie Barnette’s drawings offer a genealogy of care, in which a branching family holds each member in place. Leslie Hewitt expands that network beyond the bounds of biological family, inviting the viewer to take part in, and be supported by, a collective family history.
These artworks explore care as a constant exchange, something given and something received. Surveying these works, it is important to acknowledge the Black women at their core, and at the center of so much care work.
On Care was organized by Jordan Jones, former Joint Curatorial Fellow, The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Museum of Modern Art.