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Cliff Joseph, Artist, Activist and Therapist, Dies at 98

Cliff Joseph, Artist, Activist and Therapist, Dies at 98
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Cliff Joseph, Artist, Activist and Therapist, Dies at 98

Cliff Joseph, Artist, Activist and Therapist, Dies at 98

Cliff Joseph, an artist raised in Harlem who within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s led protests in opposition to main New York museums to advocate for the inclusion of Black artists, and who later pioneered the follow of multiculturalism within the discipline of artwork remedy, died on Nov. 8 in a hospital in Chicago. He was 98.

His spouse, Ann Joseph, confirmed the dying.

In 1963, Mr. Joseph, whose work depicted the social unrest sweeping the nation, was struggling as an artist in New York. He was in Washington that August, standing on the entrance of the group on the Lincoln Memorial when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I used to be so moved by that have and what it mentioned to me about the best way I ought to be utilizing my artwork abilities,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in a 2006 documentary, “Conversations With Cliff Joseph.” “This actually woke up me.”

Mr. Joseph and a gaggle of different artists based the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which started agitating for the inclusion of African-American artists in New York museums.

When the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork opened the present “Harlem on My Thoughts” in 1969, their trigger gained consideration. The exhibition, which documented the tradition and historical past of Harlem, included no work or sculptures by Black artists. Mr. Joseph and his fellow activists picketed exterior the museum for days with indicators that learn, “Harlem on Whose Thoughts?”

Their voices had been heard.

Mayor John V. Lindsay criticized the exhibition. The New York State Division of Human Rights denounced it. And the Met’s curator, Thomas Hoving, issued a uncommon public apology.

In 1971, the Whitney Museum of American Artwork opened an exhibition known as “Modern Black Artists in America.” The coalition criticized the museum for assigning a white curator to the mission.

“It’s important,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in a press release, “that or not it’s chosen by one whose knowledge, power and depth of sensitivity concerning Black artwork is drawn from the effectively of his personal Black expertise.”

The Whitney’s director, John I.H. Baur, informed the information media, “The coalition stands for a form of separatism I don’t imagine in.”

Fifteen Black artists, together with the sculptor Richard Hunt and the painter Sam Gilliam, withdrew from the exhibition on its opening day. Quickly after that, the group staged a protest present, “Rebuttal to Whitney Museum Exhibition,” at Acts of Artwork, a Black-owned gallery in Greenwich Village.

After the inmate rebellion on the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York in 1971, the group lobbied for the implementation of arts packages for prisoners, and Mr. Joseph despatched a letter to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.

“Those that are on the head of the oppressive system know effectively the ability of artwork and concern it within the palms of the individuals,” he wrote. “That’s the reason energy buildings all through man’s historical past have sought to suppress and management the artistic artist.”

That very same yr, their arts program, usually taught by artists from the coalition, was carried out on the Tombs in Decrease Manhattan , later increasing to correctional services throughout the nation.

In his 40s, Mr. Joseph entered the psychological well being discipline of artwork remedy, serving to to introduce ideas like racial sensitivity and cultural competency to the occupation.

He taught artwork remedy at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for 11 years and labored at Albert Einstein Faculty of Medication within the Bronx. He was the primary Black member of the American Artwork Remedy Affiliation and have become president of the New York Artwork Remedy Affiliation in 1981.

Within the 2006 documentary, Mr. Joseph mirrored on his contributions to multiculturalism in his discipline.

“It’s not that an individual must be Black to cope with Black sufferers,” he mentioned. “But when a white individual is available in to cope with a gaggle of Black individuals, that individual ought to know {that a} culture-specific strategy ought to be used.”

In any other case, he continued, “they’re not going to grasp the place you’re coming from, and also you received’t perceive the place they’re coming from, and nothing goes to occur.”

Clifford Ricardo Joseph was born on June 23, 1922, in Panama Metropolis to a big Caribbean household. His father, Samuel, labored on the development of the Panama Canal, and his mom, Leontine (Ellis) Joseph, was a maid. When he was 18 months outdated, his household settled in Harlem.

Cliff’s older brother, Freddy, aspired to turn out to be a police officer; the identical day he was admitted into the academy, he was fatally shot by a person in his house constructing. To help his household, Mr. Joseph enlisted within the Military as a teen. He later served abroad in a discipline artillery unit.

After World Battle II, Mr. Joseph studied at Pratt on the G.I. Invoice, graduating with a B.F.A. in 1952. Whereas working at a welfare heart, he met Ann Voggenthaler, whom he married within the mid-Nineteen Sixties.

A couple of years after attending the March on Washington together with his spouse and listening to Dr. King converse, Mr. Joseph mailed Dr. King some Christmas playing cards he had designed honoring the younger ladies killed within the Ku Klux Klan bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Dr. King despatched a letter to Mr. Joseph’s East Village house.

“I used to be deeply impressed and really grateful in your beneficiant gesture,” he wrote. “It was particularly gratifying since I’ve at all times felt, since I first noticed it, that your artwork expressed the which means and sacrifice of our wrestle.”

Within the Nineteen Sixties, Mr. Joseph helped maintain psychiatric sufferers at Jacobi Hospital within the Bronx, the place he befriended Edith Kramer, a outstanding artwork therapist. Ms. Kramer invited him to observe her work with youngsters on the hospital, and Mr. Joseph was moved by what he witnessed. She then introduced him to the early conferences of the American Artwork Remedy Affiliation.

“I bought into this room with all these individuals and I didn’t see anybody that I might acknowledge as being of my race,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in 2006. “I felt there was some politeness once I was launched, however I didn’t really feel I used to be being welcomed in.”

The American Artwork Remedy Affiliation gave Mr. Joseph an award in 2008 acknowledging his dedication to social activism within the discipline. He was additionally featured in a documentary, “Wheels of Variety in Artwork Remedy: Pioneers of Colour,” which profiled a number of therapists who launched a multicultural perspective.

In 2001, after years residing within the rent-regulated Westbeth Artists Housing complicated within the West Village, Mr. Joseph and his spouse moved to Chicago, the place they later joined the neighborhood protest of a petroleum coke storage facility on the Southeast Aspect owned by the Koch brothers. Mr. Joseph additionally wrote a science-fiction novel, “The Revelation of Quantity 10: A Galactic Neighbor’s Enchantment.”

Along with his spouse, Mr. Joseph is survived by two youngsters from a earlier marriage, Clifford Jr. and Leonette Joseph; a brother, Ronald; and three grandchildren. A daughter, Zuri Joseph, died in 2013.

In 2018, Hunter Faculty in New York revisited “Rebuttal to Whitney Museum Exhibition” with an occasion at its campus gallery. The exhibition remounted works from the unique 1971 present, together with certainly one of Mr. Joseph’s oil work, “The Superman.”

That portray depicts a bloated Klansman holding a rifle and a cross standing in entrance of a Accomplice flag. However he’s bare, carrying his white gown on his arm, and Mr. Joseph has rendered him spectral and forlorn.

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