A groundbreaking study of the public art collective Smokehouse Associates, whose abstract works transformed New York’s Harlem community in the late 1960s
Between 1968 and 1970, the artist collective Smokehouse Associates transformed Harlem with vibrant, community-oriented abstract murals and sculptures. Established by William T. Williams and including Melvin Edwards, Guy Ciarcia, and Billy Rose, Smokehouse grew to encompass a range of creative practitioners united around the revolutionary potential of public art. Though relatively unknown today, Smokehouse was ambitious in its scale, community engagement, and interaction with the built environment.
Published over fifty years after the collective’s founding, Smokehouse Associates offers the first critical examination of the group’s work. Eric Booker provides a historical overview of the collective; Charles Davis II and James Trainor delve into contextual histories of public art, urban design, and architecture; and an artist roundtable moderated by Ashley James presents critical reflections. With previously unpublished images and ephemera and a rich chronology, Smokehouse Associates serves as a sourcebook that expands the narrative of public art and social practice in the United States to include the contributions of artists of African descent.
Distributed for The Studio Museum in Harlem
Eric Booker is assistant curator and exhibition coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Charles Davis II is associate professor of architectural history and criticism at the University of Texas at Austin. Ashley James is associate curator of contemporary art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. James Trainor is a writer, educator, and scholar based in Maine.
“Wonderfully catches the [Smokehouse] energy, in interviews with the original artists and through . . . photographs of empty lots being cleaned, walls being prepped, kids playing and pitching in, and artists doing their totally wow-inspiring thing.”—Holland Cotter, New York Times, “Best Art Books of 2022”