A Modernist in the Colony and Infinite Archive
June 9th, 2017 - September 24th, 2017
Two new exhibitions featured in “CONTEMPORARY MEETS COLONIAL” series this summer at Morris-Jumel Mansion!
Four artists in A Modernist in the Colony and Infinite Archive explore historical narratives within the collection and respond with new work through a contemporary lens.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion is presenting two new exhibitions in its “Contemporary Meets Colonial” series revealing contemporary responses to its collection of historic objects. Incorporating a selection of historic material and narratives about the Morris and Jumel families chosen by four artists, the exhibitions are on view from June 9 through September 24, 2017. A Modernist in the Colony, installed throughout the historic landmark in upper Manhattan, features 30 artworks in glass and ceramic by Michigan-based artist Jeff Blandford. The new works are placed alongside approximately 18 decorative objects from the storied Mansion’s collection to create a compelling dialogue. Inspired by the newly reinterpreted period rooms within the 250-year-old site, Blandford created everyday objects—drinking glasses, bowls, and candlesticks—with a modern twist. Presented together, the historic and the contemporary exchange is activated in surprising ways.
Local artists Patrick Perry, Sarah Rowe, and Rachel Sydlowski respond to the unique history, archives, and architecture of the Mansion in the concurrent exhibition Infinite Archive. Each artist employs archival objects as springboards to create site-specific installations comprising ceramic objects, jewelry, and prints. They present visual interpretations based on different avenues of research conducted by each artist, notably into the life and times of the formidable Eliza Jumel whose tastes in fashion, furnishings, and décor are still very much in evidence at the Mansion. Each artist represented in Infinite Archive contributed a special edition artist’s book exploring aspects of the building’s architecture, history, and landscape and the identities of those who inhabited it. Offering an intimate experience, visitors are invited to hold and examine each book. At the culmination of the exhibition, a set of the editions will be permanently placed within the holdings of the Mansion’s archive.
A Taste for Chocolate
February 18, 2017 - May 29, 2017
The Morris-Jumel Mansion (MJM), Manhattan's oldest house, will present a special exhibition exploring cacao and chocolate as a commodity and emerging breakfast tradition in colonial and post-colonial America. Stephen Jumel's role as an importer and purveyor will be revealed in archival material from MJM's collection. The exhibition focuses on how cocoa-typically sold in "cakes" and served as a hot drink flavored with vanilla, honey, and spices-became a popular beverage during Eliza Jumel's lifetime (1775-1865).
Known for its effect as a stimulant and easily transported, both British and American soldiers were supplied with cocoa cakes to mix with hot water for breakfast. Benjamin Franklin, who sold chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop, ensured that the Continental Army marching against General Braddock's forces in 1755 were equipped with chocolate to boost their energy. In 1785, Thomas Jefferson predicted that cocoa would become American's favorite after the Boston Tea Party and before coffee rose as the popular choice. AbiGail Adams wrote to her husband about drinking breakfast chocolate during a trip to London. Martha Washington made "cocoa tea" for her husband who, as commander of the Continental Army, used the Mansion as his headquarters in the fall of 1776.
Despite its use in the military as a ration, when Stephen Jumel was importing cacao in the early nineteenth century (ca. 1820) it was enjoyed mostly by the upper and upper-middle classes. Eliza Jumel's generation saw the democratization of chocolate as production techniques improved, the taste and texture became more palatable, and peoples' taste for chocolate grew.
A Taste for Chocolate will feature art objects from a private collection including rare books, antiquarian botanical prints, chocolate services and pots, and other decorative arts. Advertisements for Cadbury's and Frye's provide a window onto how cocoa was marketed in Europe and the U.S., and an original printed inventory from Stephen Jumel's dry goods business lists a cacao shipment from the West Indies.
In Their Words: Teen Reactions to 18th Century Slavery
December 2016 - April 2017
The first enslaved African Americans were brought to Manhattan by the Dutch West India Company in 1626, performing laborious tasks during the growth of New Amsterdam. After rule of the Colony shifted from Dutch to British control in 1664, the practice continued well into the early Republic, and New York’s enslaved population eventually grew to be the second largest in the entire country. The Mansion, known as Mt. Morris at the time, was itself home to numerous enslaved servants - both the Morris family (1765-1776) and George Washington (September - October, 1776) were owners of enslaved people. During the American Revolution, many enslaved people in New York joined the fight on both sides, drawn by the promise of emancipation for their service.
Through the New York City Department of Education’s Teen Thursday program, students from PS 149 Sojourner Truth undertook a seven-week collaboration with the museum to study the roles of various enslaved African Americans in Colonial New York. Together, students interacted with the museum’s collection, specifically objects which would have been used by the enslaved servants. Students examined these artifacts, discovering the unwritten history behind them and the skills required for their use. The culminating activity was for students to create an exhibition, focusing on the objects’ connections to enslaved people and factual information surrounding the objects. The reflections you see here represent the students' authentic reactions to, and their personal journey through the difficult topic of slavery in 18th century New York.
From Silver Spoon to Silver Screen
October 2016 - January 2017
Louis le Prince, regarded as the father of film, planned to premier his films at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Ferdinand P. Earle, who installed a skylight in the Upper Parlor, once George Washington’s office, for his studio, was also a well-known figure in the movies and associated with stars like Ramon Novarro. Featuring cultural ephemera, images, clips, and artifacts from films, photoshoots, glamor and excitement of cinema and fashion photography will meet the elegance of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in this exhibition.
Divided into two sections, the exhibition illustrates the role the Mansion has played as a cultural muse. The first section speaks to the Mansion’s shift from a country home to a cultural commodity as the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth and the Mansion turned to a museum. The second section takes a look at how the media has embraced the Mansion, from major magazines featuring articles about the experience of a museum, to feature films about the Mansion’s historical past, or films that have used the Mansion as a location in different ways.
Boundless: The Women of the Mansion
Inspired by the surrounding community, past inhabitants, history and artifacts of Manhattan’s oldest house, award-winning local artist Andrea Arroyo will present a series of works integrated with the garden and grounds. Arroyo aims to create a multi-level conversation, bridging local culture and history and connecting the experience of all women- from the Lenape Nation, the Colonial Period of the home, the Harlem Renaissance and all the immigrants who make Upper Manhattan a vibrant community today.
Cuff Philipse: A Legacy in Documents
Cuff (Kofi) Philipse entered history in the cold New York City spring of 1741. A series of destructive fires created a panic among the city's free citizens, who feared that the fires signaled a massive slave revolt. Cuff, enslaved by one of New York's most prominent men, Adolphus Philipse, was soon identified as one of the “leaders” of this revolt. Centering on a series of never-before-viewed 17th and 18th century manuscripts from the Morris-Jumel Archives, this exhibit will examine the meaning of Cuff Philipse's life for the mansion’s first mistress, Mary Philipse (niece of Adolphus), and the domestic slaves who worked for her.
The Fabric of Emancipation
In partnership with Harlem Needle Arts, this exhibition interprets New York’s African-American material history through contemporary pieces of needle and fiber arts which draw on centuries-old traditions. A juried selection of artists have created dynamic works inspired by topics important to our community and the history of the Mansion, such as colonialism, the impact of history on the experience of the African Diaspora today, and what it means to be a textile artist.
Yinka Shonibare MBE: Colonial Arrangements
Elaborate, colorful, seductive and quizzical, Yinka Shonibare's renowned, textile-based art has been the focus of more than 50 solo museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide. The latest, Colonial Arrangements, will take place, from May 1st to August 31st, 2015, at Morris-Jumel Mansion. It's a fitting match, with the Mansion's lovingly preserved 18th- and 19th-century interiors set to serve as a baroque backdrop for Shonibare's extraordinary sculpture, including an entirely new, never-before-seen work commissioned by the Mansion.
Yinka Shonibare MBE: Colonial Arrangements is a Historic House Trust Contemporary Arts Partnership Program. Generously sponsoring the exhibit are the James Cohan Gallery, the New York State Council on the Arts and The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.
Talia Greene: Passage
Among the loveliest of Morris-Jumel's furnishing are its wallpapers, which decorate six of the Mansion's eight period rooms, the front hall and the borders of our website. To artist Talia Greene, MJM's wallpapers gave not only aesthetic delight, but also the inspiration to createPassage—a site-specific wallpaper installation set to debut October 17th. An amalgam of prints, paper and cutouts, Passage incorporates motifs found on MJM wallpaper (for instance, the birds that appear on the walls of the Octagon Room, and the grapevines decorating Aaron Burr's bedchamber) to tell the story of Manhattan's gradual urbanization.
Throughout the piece, which ascends up the walls of the stairwell and across the second floor, images of nature and the urban grid intermingle, doing dialectical battle that terminates, in Aaron's Burr's bedchamber, in a jungle array of cut-out grapevines.
Talia Greene comes to Morris-Jumel by way of Philadelphia, where she's an adjunct professor at Drexel University and the University of the Arts. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and her MFA from Mills College. She was recently awarded an Independence Foundation Fellowship Grant and the Peter Benoliel Fellowship from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Talia has exhibited, among other places, at American University Museum, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina, and Wave Hill in the Bronx.
Passage opens Saturday, October 17th, with an evening reception. On November 15th, we'll host a wallpaper family day, at which kids and parents can try their hands at making beautiful wallpaper prints. For more information on Passage and related programming, call 212-923-8008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Passage is a Historic House Trust of New York City Contemporary Arts Partnership.
This series of corset portraits represents nine women from the life of Aaron Burr, the Founding Father who haunts not only Harlem Heights’ Morris-Jumel Mansion but also American history. His ghostly legacy, coupled with Madame Eliza Jumel’s, sits atop the crossroads above it all in the house Duke Ellington called, “The Crown of Sugar Hill.”
This is where the Founding Fathers meet the Founding Brothers in struggles against colonialism & for self-determination; a crossroads where George Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois find common ground, where Hamilton’s meeting Burr ends on the dueling grounds, and where Burr and Jumel found their common grounds for divorce.
A strident equalitarian, Burr stood opposed to the vested interests of most of our republican Founding Fathers. His democratic stance credits him among the first politicians in America to introduce anti-slavery legislation and one of its first feminists, sentiments that did not make him popular with Jeffersonian democrats. These sentiments did win the women depicted here, those who mentored him and those he mentored.