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MOCA Commemorates 20th Anniversary of 9/11 & 20 Years Since Richards’ Passing With Series of Events

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA) is currently exhibiting “Michael Richards: Are You Down?”―the first museum retrospective of the work of Michael Richards, exhibiting both his extensive sculpture and drawing practice.

Of Jamaican and Costa Rican lineage, Richards was born in Brooklyn in 1963, raised in Kingston, and came of age between post-independence Jamaica and post-civil rights era America. Tragically, Richards passed away on September 11, 2001 while working in his Lower Manhattan Cultural Council World Views studio on the 92nd floor of World Trade Center, Tower One. At age 38, Richards was an emerging artist whose incisive aesthetic held immense promise to make him a leading figure in contemporary art.

Flight and aviation were central themes for Richards as an exploration of freedom and escape, ascendance and descent. In light of the devastating circumstances that took Richards’ life, the airplanes and pilot imagery in his powerful artworks take on an added prescience. Richards used the language of metaphor to investigate racial inequity and the tension between assimilation and exclusion in his art. His artwork gestures towards both repression and reprieve from social injustices, and the simultaneous possibilities of uplift and downfall, often in the context of the historic and ongoing oppression of Black people.

To commemorate the retrospective, MOCA is presenting a series of events, organized by Michael Richards: Are You Down? co-curators Melissa Levin and Alex Fialho, to engage and educate the public. The upcoming programming includes:

Conversations at MOCA: Present & Possible—Honoring Michael Richards |Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 – 7:00-8:30 p.m.

2021 marks 20 years since Michael Richards’ tragic passing at the age of 38 in the attacks on September 11, 2001. To honor this anniversary, Richards’ cousin Dawn Dale and “Michael Richards: Are You Down?” co-curators Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin will be in dialogue with filmmaker, visual artist, and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden to discuss the ongoing work of stewarding artists’ legacies. Dale has stored and cared for Richards’ artworks for two decades since Richards’ passing; Fialho and Levin have been engaged with curating Richards’ art since 2016; and McClodden has worked with the estates and archives of artists Brad Johnson, Essex Hemphill and Julius Eastman. Together, their conversation will consider the ongoing work of uplifting underknown Black artists, familial care for those who have passed, and amplifying Richards’ artistic practice in the wake of September 11.

To RSVP for the free, virtual event, visit:

Conversations at MOCA: Book Preview & Celebration for Michael Richards: Are You Down? | Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 – 7:00-8:30 p.m.

MOCA will present “Conversations at MOCA: Book Preview & Celebration” – a preview and celebration of the forthcoming monograph Michael Richards: Are You Down?, scheduled for publication in Spring 2022. The monograph is co-published by MOCA North Miami and New York Consolidated (N-Y-C). The virtual preview brings together Edwidge Danticat, monograph contributor, acclaimed Miami-based author and MacArthur Fellow, with Camille Crain Drummond, editorial director at N-Y-C with particular interest in Michael Richards’ work as a descendant of a Tuskegee Airman. Danticat and Crain Drummond will discuss the wide-ranging themes in Richards’ dynamic artistic practice, including references to flight, the Tuskegee Airmen, Caribbean and African American histories, and more.

To RSVP for the free, virtual event, visit:

For more information about MOCA’s upcoming events, please visit:

By ML Staff. Image courtesy of MOCA


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