Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Arts Center at Governors Island hosts LMCC’s summer exhibition, Michael Richards: Winged, dedicated to late artist Michael Richards (1963–2001) who tragically lost his life in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Curated by Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin, the show marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 with the largest exhibition of Richards’ work to date—most of which has not been on public view for over 15 years, and some of which has never before been shown in New York City. It is free, open to the public and features a range of Richards’ work in sculpture and drawing, as well as documentation and ephemera of his art and life. See below for hours, location details and listings information, with full details of the works on view available separately.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Richards was working in his LMCC World Views studio on the 92nd floor of World Trade Center, Tower One, when the first plane struck, taking his life along with the thousands of others who passed away in the tragic events of that day. At the time of his passing, Richards was an emerging artist whose incisive aesthetic—always provocative, at times playful, yet never without a critical bent—held immense promise to make him a leading figure in contemporary art.
Materially and conceptually, Richards used the language of metaphor in his art to investigate racial inequity and the tension between assimilation and exclusion. Aviation, flight and escape were central themes of Richards’ work, gesturing towards both repression and reprieve from social injustices and the simultaneous possibilities of uplift and downfall, often in the context of the historical and ongoing oppression of black people. Significant points of reference for Richards included the Tuskegee Airmen—the first African-American pilots in United States military history—and the complexity of their triumphs in the face of segregation, as well as religious and ritual figures and stories from African and Judeo-Christian traditions. Centering his own experience, Richards used his body to cast the figures for his sculptures, which often appear as pilots, saints, or both.
In light of the devastating circumstances that took Richards’ life, the airplanes, wings and aviation imagery that recur throughout his body of work take on a prescient resonance. Richards poetically described the notion of flight in his practice: “The idea of flight relates to my use of pilots and planes, but it also references…the idea of being lifted up, enraptured, or taken up to a safe place—to a better world.”
MICHAEL RICHARDS: WINGED
Free and open to the public, on view through September 25
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays, 12–5 p.m.
plus, every day during the River To River Festival, June 16–June 26, 12–5 p.m.
Governors Island: LMCC’s Arts Center (Building 110)