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Conversations at MOCA: Present & Possible—Honoring Michael Richards

Michael Richards in his studio in Miami Beach, Winter 1998. Courtesy of Carolyn Swiszcz.
Tuesday, September 14,  7:00 PM 

2021 marks 20 years since Michael Richards’ tragic passing at the age of 38 in the attacks on September 11, 2001. To honor this anniversary, Michael Richards’ cousin Dawn Dale and Michael Richards: Are You Down? co-curators Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin will be in dialogue with filmmaker, visual artist, and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden to discuss the ongoing work of stewarding artists’ legacies.

Dale has stored and cared for Richards’ artworks for two decades since Richards’ passing; Fialho and Levin have been engaged with curating Richards’ art since 2016; and McClodden has worked with the estates and archives of artists Brad Johnson, Essex Hemphill, and Julius Eastman. Together, their conversation will consider the ongoing work of uplifting underknown Black artists, familial care for those who have passed, and amplifying Richards’ artistic practice in the wake of September 11.

The event title is inspired by Professor Jakeya Caruthers who—in an introduction to the 2019 Stanford symposium session on Michael Richards, Art and Its Afterlives—poignantly noted: “Thinking on the fragmented archive of an artist whose impact is often overshadowed by the spectacular terms of his death, this panel marks Michael Richards work present and possible, a living articulation of the past/future thought, a past too easily reduced to being belated, final, or un-alive, a mistake we remedy through our ongoing relation to these works and their critical meaning.”

Conversations at MOCA: Present & Possible Honoring Michael Richards from MOCA North Miami on Vimeo.


Speaker Biographies

Dawn Dale with "Are You Down" curators Melissa and Alex
middle: Dawn Dale

Dawn Dale is Michael Richards’ cousin, the caretaker of his art, and the steward of his estate.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden headshot
Tiona Nekkia McClodden [she/her] is a visual artist, filmmaker, and curator whose work explores and critiques issues at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and social commentary. McClodden’s interdisciplinary approach traverses documentary film, experimental video, sculpture, and sound installations. Most recently, her work has explored the themes of re-memory and narrative biomythography. Her writing has been featured on the Triple Canopy platform, in Artforum, Cultured Magazine, ART 21 Magazine, and many other publications. Tiona lives and works in North Philadelphia, PA, and is the Founder + Owner of Philadelphia-based, Conceptual Fade, a micro-gallery and library space centering Black thought + artistic production.

Photo by Giancarlo Valentine

curators Melissa Levin and Alex Fialho next to Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian
Curators Melissa Levin and Alex Fialho in the gallery next to Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian.

Alex Fialho is an art historian, curator, and graduate student in Yale University’s Combined Ph.D. program in the History of Art and African American Studies. Fialho previously worked for five years as Programs Director of the New York-based arts non-profit Visual AIDS and is a contributor to Artforum. Fialho’s writing has been published in exhibition catalogs for the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Andy Warhol Museum, among others.

Melissa Levin is an arts administrator and curator with nearly 20 years of experience. For more than 12 years, Levin worked at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council as Vice President of Cultural Programs, where her role encompassed wide-ranging institutional and artistic leadership, including overseeing LMCC’s artist residencies, exhibitions, and public programming. Recently, Levin was Vice President of Artists, Estates, and Foundations at Art Agency, Partners for three years. She currently serves on the boards of the Alliance of Artists Communities and Danspace Project.

Together, Fialho and Levin have curated exhibitions together since 2014, including Trisha Brown: Embodied Practice and Site Specificity; and (Counter)Public: Art, Intervention, & Performance in Lower Manhattan from 1978–1993. Since 2016, they have curated critically-acclaimed exhibitions dedicated to the late artist Michael Richards’s art, life, and legacy including Michael Richards: Winged (2019: Stanford University, Stanford, CA; 2016: LMCC, NY, NY), highlighted by New York Times co-chief art critic Holland Cotter as “the most moving show I’ve seen this summer.” At Stanford, they also co-organized the academic symposium “Flight, Diaspora, Identity, and Afterlife: A Symposium on the Art of Michael Richards” featuring nine Stanford professors, and artists Dread Scott and william cordova.