Thelonius Monk and Nina Simone. Photo by Nica de Koenigswarter. Courtesy of the artist.

Harmony Holiday


On View: March 21-May 25

The Kitchen at Westbeth (163B Bank Street, 4th Floor Loft)

Opening day hours:

Gallery hours Tuesday–Saturday, 11am-6pm


Public program dates and tickets forthcoming

Harmony Holiday’s project BLACK BACKSTAGE builds upon the artist’s latest book MAAFA, a work that deals with the archetypes and sounds that form in and of the ruins after genocide and displacement.

Inspired by the ways Black music is often born in these ruins and becomes their archive(s)—brought to the stage, the radio, and the album as necessity/commodity—the exhibition comprises a short film, prints of new writing, a sculptural, sound installation, occasional live performances, and a series of public conversations. Installed immersively, the various elements of the exhibition are parts of a whole and transform The Kitchen into a hybrid, liminal space that quotes the pared-down aesthetic of backstage spaces. The environment evokes the practical, immaterial aesthetic of a makeshift storefront church, revival meetings, faith healings, and other underground modes of instilling Black sacred and everyday rituals within the spectacle of performance. BLACK BACKSTAGE therein draws an intentional contradiction between the barren spaces that are left untended, and those that are cared for because they support the sale of Black spectacle.

Harmony Holiday: BLACK BACKSTAGE organized by Legacy Russell, Executive Director & Chief Curator, and Angelique Rosales Salgado, Curatorial Assistant, with Tsige Tafesse, 2023-24 Curatorial Fellow.


Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, and experimental filmmaker whose work surveys ancestry, death and rebirth, and celebrity. She is the author of 5 collections of poetry including MAAFA (2020), and also curates an archive of griot poetics and a related performance series at LA’s MOCA. At the core of her practice is a pursuit of visual and literary vocabularies that might best express the melancholic hope endemic to Black American social life. As Holiday navigates the depths of Black remembrance and loss, she sets her sights on the relationship between “the new” and “the archival.” She treats both entities as collectively improvising ensembles in which prose and poetry sit by turns comfortable and chaotic, next to images cribbed from Black artistic and private life. She has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a NYFA fellowship, a Schomburg Fellowship, and a research fellowship from Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room. She’s currently working on a play commissioned for LA’s 2020 biennial, and a collection of essays entitled Love is War for Miles in addition to other writing, film, and curatorial projects.


The Kitchen’s programs are made possible in part with support from The Kitchen’s Board of Directors, The Kitchen Leadership Fund, and the Director’s Council, as well as through generous support from The Amphion Foundation, Inc., Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Cowles Charitable Trust, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Inc., Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Marta Heflin Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Open Society Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, Ruth Foundation For The Arts, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Simons Foundation, and Teiger Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.