NEW YORK—The filmmaker, sculptor, multimedia artist, and printmaker Camille Billops died on June 1 in New York City at age 85. Known for her work exploring the taboos of Black trauma and motherhood, she continually found herself working against institutional forces determined to keep her out of the traditional art world. In 2017, she participated in the traveling museum survey We Wanted a Revolution: Radical Black Women 1965-1985. When asked for comment about working at that time, she said, “We were fighting so hard, but they wouldn’t let us in, So we said, ‘Well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.’”
Pellom McDaniels III, curator of the African American Collection at Emory University’s Rose Library, told Burnaway, “As archivists and historians, [Billops] and her husband James Hatch did something that we shall forever be indebted to them for. In 1974, they created the James Hatch and Camille Billops Archive in New York’s SoHo District in an effort to preserve the history of African Americans in the arts. From painting and poetry to theater and dance, Hatch and Billops collected materials and collaborated with other artists and creatives to document African American history and life related to the evolution of various art forms and forms of expression, especially in and around New York. Through their monthly salon series with various artists and their publication of those interviews in Artist and Influence (in circulation from 1980-2010), we are able to not only see the development of particular artists over time; we are able to trace the development of a new generation of artists. As a result, Artist and Influence is a resource that disrupts arguments about aesthetics, criticism, and who has the right to make art, have access to it, and appreciate it.”
McDaniels curated the exhibition Still Raising Hell: The Art, Activism, and Archives of James V. Hatch and Camille Billops at Emory University in Atlanta, where the archive is held, in 2016.
NASHVILLE—Months after organizers Matthew Eck and Pierre Lamoureux announced the postponement of the inaugural edition of contemporary art fair Art Nashville, they have postponed the fair again until May 2020. Exhibitors and investors in the fair have gotten nervous as a result of delays, with some pulling out and ask for refunds. Art Nashville is estimated to owe over $120,000 to exhibitors. Eck—who has previously been involved with unsuccessful attempts at art fairs such as X-Contemporary, which lasted two years before filing for bankruptcy in 2017—says the money has not been spent irresponsibly and that Art Nashville has issued over $40,000 in refunds to dealers.
ATLANTA—Atlanta-based artist Ruth Laxson died on June 1 at the age of 94. An alumna of the Atlanta College of Art, Laxson worked as a painter, sculptor, and printmaker before turning to artist’s books in the early 1980s, later founding Press 63 Plus in 1987. Her retrospective Hip Young Owl at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia, in 2013 was curated by former Nexus Press director Jo An Paschall and Marcia Wood, Laxson’s gallerist. Her work is held, among other places, in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the High Museum of Art and MOCA GA in Atlanta, and the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry in Miami.
In his remembrance of the artist for ArtsATL, longtime Atlanta critic Jerry Cullum said Laxson “was fiercely devoted to a witty but rigorously exploratory body of conceptually challenging artwork… [ranging] from performance and mail art to paintings, sculptures, and the books produced via handset type on a vintage letterpress.”
In a video from MOCA GA’s oral history project, Laxson speaks with the museum’s co-founder and director Annette Cone-Skelton. At one point she reads a quotation from one of her books: “In the infinite, I reach for the uncreated. I have touched it. It is wider than wide. Everything else is too narrow. You know this well, you who are also there.”
MIAMI—After more than twenty-five plus years at their current location (a former Drug Enforcement Agency office), the newly renamed Rubell Museum (formerly the Rubell Family Collection) will open its doors on December 4 in a new 100,000 square-feet space in Miami’s Wynwood district. The Rubell collection contains over 7,000 works by 1,000 artists including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman and Rashid Johnson. Despite concerns from economists and other experts, Mera Rubell doesn’t believe that the new museum’s presence in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami will have an adverse effect on low income residents. “It doesn’t really affect the residential—the residents can stay there. To have art repurpose these buildings is exciting for the neighborhood.”
With the help of Toronto’s Caribbean community, the Art Gallery of Toronto has purchased over 3,500 historical images of the Caribbean spanning 100 years. It is thought to be the largest such trove in North America. Images from the island nations’ most important social histories are included —the abolition of slavery, independence from colonial rule, and the first stirrings of the tourist economy. The collection, which started as a passion project of documentarian Patrick Montgomery over 12 years ago, will be presented at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 2021.