April Kingsley, Curator Who Championed Unsung Artists, Dies at 82

April Kingsley, a curator and critic who had a significant impact on black and female artists in the 1970s and 80s when it was difficult to gain mainstream attention, died June 13 at a nursing home in Howwich. Massachusetts, she was 82 years old.

Her daughter, Grace Hopkins, said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease, which Kingsley had for 12 years.

During her career, which began in the mid-1960s, Ms. Kingsley worked in various museums and acted as an independent curator, appearing and consulting on numerous exhibitions. Among her most significant was “African-American Abstraction,” which opened in 1980 at her PS 1 art space in Queens, featuring works by 19 black artists. One of those artists is her James Little, at the time, he was struggling to be recognized. Last year his work was shown at the Whitney Biennale.

“No one is more important to the trajectory of my career as an abstract painter in the United States than April Kingsley,” Little said in an email. “At a time when black abstract artists in America were ignored and shut out, she embraced us. When we were in the trenches, she jumped in with us.”

Ms. Kingsley has also written extensively, writing articles for the Art Forum, The Village Voice and other publications, as well as catalogs of exhibitions she has curated. In her position, too, she shines a light on often underestimated artists, demonstrating her understanding of what they’ve gone through in trying to make an impact in a predominantly white, male world.

A good example is her article in Arts magazine in 1981. Pat RushFor years she has been creating art that doesn’t easily fit into the usual categories of painting and sculpting on canvas, incorporating elements of stitching and pipes, and sometimes bread making. I nodded.

“Like most female artists who have ‘succeeded’ in the last decade,” Kingsley wrote. “Rush’s career took off in earnest in the late ’60s, when her marriage ended and she began producing productions full-time. Drawing from oil paintings on oversized canvases, steel and bronze sculptures, and even nudes, its old standbys date back to the early 70s. It meant very little to the up-and-coming female artists of

in the email Mr. Rashnow recognized as one of the most innovative artists to emerge in the 1970s, summed up the importance of Ms. Kingsley to her and others.

“April was visionary and encouraged artists of color and women that no one would touch,” she said.

April Kingsley was born in Queens on February 16, 1941. Her father, Kingdon, was a printer, and her mother, Grace Concilia (Haddock) Kingsley, was a homemaker.

Kingsley grew up in Queens. She graduated from Flushing High School in 1958 and received a BA in Art History from New York University in 1966. By then she had been working as an assistant director at her gallery in Manhattan’s Park Her Place for a year.

After earning a master’s degree and certificate from the New York University Museum of Fine Arts in 1968, he worked as a curator’s assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York before moving on to work as an associate curator at the Pasadena Museum of Art. In 1971 and 1972 he stayed at the Norton Simon Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum) in California. He was a consulting curator at the New York Sculpture Center in the 1980s and worked at the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Art and Design) in the 1990s. .

From 1997 until her retirement in 2011, she was curator at the Kresge Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan. She also furthered her education over the years, where she earned a master’s degree in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She received her PhD in 1986. She was there in 2000.

“She loved learning and discovering,” said Hopkins, the chairman of the board. Bata Walker Gallery In an email, he said he was in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Her work was extensive. She wrote a catalog essay for an exhibition by Al Loving, another black abstract expressionist. Melvin Edwards, black sculptor. others.she wrote the following Mary Shaffer, glass artist. John Clem Clark, early pop artist. and many others who had jobs outside the mainstream. For the exhibition “Fiber: Her 50 Years in a Permanent Collection,” held at her museum in America in 1995, she assembled 32 of her fibre-her art works. In 2002, she organized an exhibition at the Kresge Museum entitled “The Art of the Toon Age”, showcasing her work showing the influence of comics and advertising.

Kingsley’s first two marriages to Walter McMenamin and Max Schubel ended in divorce. In 1973 she married artist Bud Hopkins. The couple had one child, Hopkins, before divorcing in 1991. Her fourth husband, Donald Spike, died in 2020. In addition to her daughter, she has a sister, Grace Helen Dungan, and a granddaughter.

The 1980 “African-American Abstraction” show, a landmark for many artists, came about somewhat by accident, Little told Memphis Commercial Appeal when touring in Memphis in 1983. rice field. PS 1 had booked an exhibition of a punk artist, but canceled it after it emerged that the artist’s plans included “something very ritualistic, like slaughtering lambs and chickens,” said Little. told the same paper.

This left a gap in her calendar, and Kingsley diligently filled it.

In an email, Little called Kingsley an “unprejudiced lover of art and people.”

“She loved us and we continued to love her,” he said, adding, “She helped change direction and conversations forever.” .

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