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Four New Films to Kick Off 2021

After a brief pause following the release of our tenth broadcast season on PBS, we are charged and ready to return today with a new programming season. Over the course of four consecutive Wednesdays—starting today!—we’ll release each of our latest offerings right here on Art21.org and over on our YouTube channel.

That’s four new films total: two from our long-running Extended Play series, and two from our celebrated New York Close Up series.

Four artists—Firelei Báez, Abigail DeVille, Shaun Leonardo, and Michael Rakowitz—confront social, political, and institutional crises impacting cultures around the world, collectively capturing a portrait of contemporary history in the making, connecting personal and global experiences that play out across generations.

Drawing from experiences dating back to their formative years, each artist speaks to life-changing events that shape their creative practices. Addressing the chronicles of civil rights, tales of immigration, and the still-present traces of colonialism, the four artists in this group construct visions for paths forward.

We are very proud to bring you this collection of films at this moment. Be sure to join us for a new premiere here or on YouTube every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. ET through February 12.

Winter 2021 Film Guide

Tune in: Wednesdays (January 27; February 3, 10, and 17) at 12:00 p.m. ET

Abigail DeVille: “Light of Freedom”

From the Extended Play series; Premiered January 27

Filmed in late 2020, Abigail DeVille reveals the motivation behind her latest public art commission, Light of Freedom (2020), installed at Madison Square Park in New York City. Against a backdrop of a city and nation still reeling from the global pandemic, DeVille identifies multiple sources of inspiration for her installation, including writings by Frederick Douglas, memories of hearing Martin Luther King Jr. speeches played by her fourth grade teacher, late-19th-century images of Statue of Liberty’s torch and arm displayed publicly in the park, and, most recently, racial injustice protests throughout New York City and across the world.

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Abigail DeVille

January 27, 2021

Shaun Leonardo: The Freedom to Move

From the New York Close Up series; Premiered February 3

Marked by experiences from his upbringing in Queens, New York, and his years playing college football, Shaun Leonardo demonstrates the dynamic depth of his practice through public performances and participatory programs. Set against footage of performances at the Guggenheim Museum, the High Line, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Recess Art—as well as rare archival film from his Bowdoin College football games—Leonardo reflects upon his personal creative mandate to distort stereotypes and create spaces for others to partake in his explorations.

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Shaun Leonardo

February 3, 2021

Firelei Báez: An Open Horizon (or) the Stillness of a Wound

From the New York Close Up series; Premiered February 10

Inspired by characters from Domincan folklore and “New World”-era scientific illustrations, Firelei Báez creates paintings that shift ideas of power and perceptions around the female form. Shot primarily on film and interspersed with visual interludes of dancers, Báez is shown in constant transition—analogous to the figures in her work—traveling to locations in and around her Bronx studio, as well as to her glass mosaic commission at the 163rd Street-Amsterdam Avenue subway station in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. This film is among the releases planned for Art21’s participation in the multi-institution Feminist Art Coalition initiative.

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Michael Rakowitz: Haunting the West

From the Extended Play series; Premiered February 17

Inspired by his Iraqi-Jewish ancestry, Michael Rakowitz critiques ongoing systems of colonization by addressing the values placed by the West on Middle Eastern objects and people. Featuring recent work at Jane Lombard Gallery in New York City, Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College in upstate New York, and the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, Rakowitz shares motivations for reviving the “ghosts” of objects that have been lost, looted, or otherwise destroyed from their original environments in Iraq. Shown maintaining a studio practice that has been largely decentralized during the pandemic—with footage of his assistants working from their homes and studios—Rakowitz describes the importance of staying connected while working apart.

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Michael Rakowitz

February 17, 2021