Marquee: Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910). The Gulf Stream (detail), 1899. Oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 49 1/8 in. (71.4 x 124.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1906 (06.1234)
Exhibition dates: April 2-September 2022
Exhibition location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The American Wing, Second Floor, Gallery 767 (Margaret and Raymond J. Horowitz Galleries) and Gallery 771 (Terian Family Gallery)
Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream (1899, reworked by 1906) has captivated viewers for over a century. Numerous artists, especially artists of color, have also grappled with the allusive meaning and intent of Homer’s depiction of a lone Black seaman on a distressed boat, threatened by sharks and a waterspout in the powerful Atlantic current. In conjunction with The Met’s major exhibition Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents—which features The Gulf Stream as its centerpiece—the Museum’s American Wing is presenting responses from four contemporary artists to the painting and other Caribbean works by Homer as well as to Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851), another canonic picture in the Museum’s collection. Featuring loaned works by Elizabeth Colomba, Hugh Hayden, Kerry James Marshall, and Kara Walker, the presentation is on view in Galleries 767 (where The Gulf Stream is normally displayed) and 771 from April 2 to late September 2022.
In Gallery 767, Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) is represented by five works-on-paper studies for his painting Gulf Stream (2003), a reimagining of Homer’s canvas. Part of his career-long practice of reconceiving historical works from a contemporary Black perspective, Marshall’s image transforms Homer’s dramatic composition, with its uncertain outcome, into what has been termed an “allegory of liberation,” rejecting Black trauma for Black joy. Marshall’s serene depiction of men and women enjoying a smooth sail on a yacht foregrounds harmony over conflict while also underlining essential issues of race and class. The studies, which are on loan from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, include a mixed-media work, two watercolors, and two drawings.
The Brooklyn-based sculptor and architect Hugh Hayden (b. 1983) came to know Homer’s The Gulf Stream through Marshall’s empowering revision. Adapting the subject in three-dimensional anthropomorphic terms, Hayden presents his sailing vessel with 12 ribs, evoking a sea serpent that references both the threat and salvation in Homer’s painting.
The final work in Gallery 767, a monumental diptych by Kara Walker (b. 1969) titled The Crossing (2017), offers an inventive response to both Homer’s The Gulf Stream and Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware by addressing the realities of a precarious ship of state. Leutze’s painting—evoking patriotic feelings in some viewers, and conflict and struggle in others—continues to be a visual touchstone for political debates and has inspired provocative artworks about the biases of American history and mythmaking. Walker’s incendiary The Crossing—on public view for the first time—interrogates notions of American power and patriotism while challenging romanticized narratives of America’s past.
In Gallery 771, Elizabeth Colomba (b. 1976) engages in a dialogue with The Met’s famed collection of works by John Singer Sargent as well as Winslow Homer in her painting Armelle (1997). A figure painter of Caribbean and French heritage, Colomba centers stories of Black women in an effort to reframe history and question Western conventions of beauty.
This display is conceived by The Met’s Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, and Stephanie L. Herdrich, Associate Curator of American Painting and Sculpture.
More information is available on The Met’s website.