Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces


Suzanne Jackson. MaeGame. 1973 366

Acrylic wash on canvas, 82 × 82 × 6" (208.3 × 208.3 × 15.2 cm). Private Collection. Courtesy Ortuzar Projects, New York

Curator, Thomas (T.) Jean Lax: Suzanne Jackson’s painting MaeGame was included in JAM’s first group show, Synthesis in 1974.

Linda Goode Bryant: Synthesis, as a show, for me, was an opportunity to put together work being made by African American artists that was figurative and also abstract in the same gallery. This was during a time where Black artists were debating whether or not you could be a Black artist if you were working abstractly or conceptually, that you can only be a Black artist if you were a figurative artist.

That debate was just, to me, a distraction. We needed to figure out what it is we really wanted to talk about. Maybe the question is, why are we following the traditions of Western art?

Thomas (T.) Jean Lax: Jackson ran Gallery 32, an alternative space in Los Angeles, from 1968 to 1970. Like JAM, Gallery 32 reflected a desire among artists of color to build shared spaces for creativity.

Artist, Suzanne Jackson: Gallery 32 was really an accident. I had this very large studio, so we had some exhibitions there. We didn’t worry about whether other people would create spaces for us. We just decided that we had to make our own space.

Linda visited the West Coast and met a lot of the artists. It was seamless in the sense that, well, why shouldn’t we support Linda? We didn’t even think about it. She was very bold in that effort of going to 57th Street.

Linda Goode Bryant: I would say, certainly the energy that came from LA at that time into New York was really key to JAM. Because folks in LA were just pushing beyond abstract painting in ways that reflected their experience and what they had and were able to use to make what they wanted to create.

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