MOCAD’s superstar Senior Curator selects art + answers our Qs.
Larry Ossei-Mensah is a maestro of connection, and a master of pinpointing progressive art. We’ve been following Ossei-Mensah for a while now, thanks in part to his work as co-founder of ARTNOIR, an organization that identifies as a “global collective of culturalists”. ARTNOIR brings together artists, writers and other members of the creative community for innovative, experiential events with an emphasis on underrepresented voices. It’s a collaborative, synesthetic, constructive effort that underscores the unifying ability of art to encourage self-examination and—ultimately—to act as an agent of personal and global progress. For instance, a spring 2018 ARTNOIR happening in our own Brooklyn backyard took a refreshing cross-disciplinary angle à la poetry, visual art, and music mixed into a single performative showcase.
Beyond his endeavors at ARTNOIR, Ossei-Mensah has organized an incredible spread of exhibitions and programs at home and abroad, exercising inherent insight and a carefully honed curatorial eye for contemporary art. Along the way, he’s written about, discussed, and explored the art world extensively. It’s this decade-plus of experience that’ll serve him well in his new role at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Ossei-Mensah was recently appointed the museum’s Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator. MOCAD and Ossei-Mensah seem like an amazing marriage if you ask us: expansive in approach and aligned in ethos. The museum makes for the perfect platform to nourish Ossei-Mensah’s collaborative instincts and really milk his magical synergist skills.
We can’t wait to see what’s next. In the meantime, our 5+5 interview is a terrific teaser. Read below for Ossei-Mensah’s answers and art picks. – Jen Bekman + Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
1) Residential Web by Amy Casey
I love the composition, the chaos and the harmony.
2) Columbus Circle, Manhattan, 1938 by Berenice Abbott
I love the composition. This is a classic image that reminds me how the city I was raised in has truly changed.
3) Juke Joint, Melrose, Louisiana by Marion Post Wolcott
Nostalgia from an era that is a distant memory.
4) Apart Camera by Todd McLellan
A reminder of the fragility of life and the need to not be so dependent on technology.
5) Washington, D.C. Government charwoman by Gordon Parks
Iconic image! A true reminder of the humanity, determination and desire that binds us as Americans.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
MOCAD! From the staff to the exhibitions, the museum seeks to push the boundaries of understanding the world via art. I'm constantly reminded of that ethos every time I walk through the doors.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
Jack Whitten: Notes from the Woodshed.
3) You've got $5m to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
Something by Mark Bradford.
4) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
Single statement piece in my bedroom and salon in the common space of my home.
5) You recently became Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Congrats! From following your work as co-founder of ARTNOIR, we know you’ve long had your finger on the pulse of what’s really moving the art world forward. Who are some truly progressive upcoming artists we should keep an eye on?
Kennedy Yanko, Basil Kincaid, David Shrobe, Tiff Massey, and Delphine Fawundu.
The 411 on Larry Ossei-Mensah
Larry Ossei-Mensah is a curator and cultural critic who uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. He has organized exhibitions and programs at commercial and nonprofit spaces around the globe in addition to documenting cultural happenings featuring the most dynamic visual artists working today such as Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Kehinde Wiley. Ossei-Mensah is currently the Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at MOCAD and co-founder of the 501(c)(3) ARTNOIR. In 2019, he will co-curate the exhibition Coffee, Rhum, Sugar, Gold: The Postcolonial Paradox at MoAD, San Francisco.
Photograph by Andrew Boyle