In 1976, Senator H. Carl McCall and the Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture established the New York State Harlem Art Collection as a product of the community and to fulfill the State’s desire to bring a positive cultural component to the Harlem State Office Building. The collection has over 100 significant works of art produced by predominantly Black and Hispanic New York City area artists. At the time the collection was assembled, it signified an important cultural contribution to the Harlem community. Today, its unique artistic vision and powerful expressiveness resonate far beyond Harlem, attracting world-wide audiences and attaining international importance.
The New York State Office of General Services provides the care, scholarship, and access of this incredible compilation of collective history. As testimony to the art's importance, selections from the collection, such as these, are now included in the efforts of major institutions nationwide. Highlights include Columbus Museum’s 2018-19 exhibition, I Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100, Delaware Museum of Art’s 2021 exhibition, Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks, the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building exhibition, Seeing Harlem and the most recent research on the collection has helped to inform the upcoming Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present, the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on an art gallery which exemplified a focus on African Americans artists.
RANDY WILLIAMS (1947 - )
Untitled Music Series 2/3
acrylic on canvas
80 x 58 inches
Randy Williams is a visual artist and educator, most recently working at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York as the Professor of Studio and Art Education. Williams uses art cathartically as a means of confronting his own experiences in life as a Black American.
On his Untitled Music Series 2/3:
“At the time that this painting was painted, my main aesthetic concern was defining the relationship between the visual arts and music. My intention at the time was not to illustrate music with visual forms, but to have the visual forms function as their own musical structures. In essence what I wanted to do in this painting and other paintings in the “Untitled Music Series” was to influence the eyes of the viewer to hear images, visual images in the same manner that ears are capable of hearing music and sounds.”
SUZANNE JACKSON (1944 - )
mixed media on medium weight wove paper
44 x 32 1/8 inches
As an artist, curator, educator, performer and dancer, Suzanne Jackson has committed her life and career to creating art. From 1968 to 1970, she ran Gallery 32, an experimental art gallery in Los Angeles meant to provide supportive and communal spaces for artists, particularly Black artists. Jackson displayed their work and encouraged discussion and activism, hosting fundraisers for causes such as the Black Arts Council and the Black Panther Party.
Throughout the past fifty years, Jackson never adhered to one type of artistic style or trend for her work. From her acrylic paintings and assemblages of the 1970s and 80s, to her sculptural and three dimensional experimentations with paint in the 1990s, Jackson, who resides in Savannah, Georgia, continues to explore the boundaries of art throughout her career.
LENNON BERNARD CAMERON (1945 - )
graphite and mixed media on medium weight wove paper
23" x 35"
As a child, Cameron often visited Harlem for shopping and social events. As an adult he worked and exhibited at the nearby Studio Museum; he also had stints as an illustrator for the U.S. Air Force and a freelance cartoonist.
His works often use objects and expanses to play with the viewer’s interpretation of what they see. “Everything is something, be it pure space or an object contained in that space,” he once said about his approach to art. “I use pure form as a vehicle which interprets and substantiates my explanation.” Cameron earned his M.F.A. from the City College of New York and a PhD at New York University.
RUSS THOMPSON (1922 - )
Lithograph with pink, blue, and green hand applied color, estimated colored pencil, on wove paper.
20 3/8 x 28 3/8"
Born in Jamaica in 1922, Russ Thompson moved to New York City to study photography in the 1940s. His art style involves collages of painting, prints, and found objects. In Selma Accumulation Thompson merges images from a violent moment in American history with what he described as “the fictive violence of art.”
“My works are totally wrapped up with [what is] commonly unfelt, commonly unheard, and commonly unseen,” he once reflected. The artist was inspired to see a personal friend, Nathaniel Walker, in the photo used here. Thompson won a Grand Prize at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969.
WINSTON KENNEDY (1944 - )
Soft ground etching in black and blue-black printing
ink on medium weight wove paper,
30 x 20 3/4"
Winston Kennedy's scholarship emphasizes the artwork of Black printmakers and graphic artists. As an artist himself, he received his Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Painting from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972. He is professor emeritus from Howard University where he served as Chairman for the Department of Art.
In the Untitled etching, Kennedy encourages the act of close looking. At first glance, the print resembles the body of a woman, but upon closer look, the body is revealed to consist of abstract shapes and patterns. This act of close-looking encourages a meditative and contemplative exploration of the work’s composition and one’s own innermost thoughts.
BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD (1939 - )
Graphite (soft) and black conte or compressed
charcoal on heavy weight, wove, Canson paper.
40 1/2 X 29 1/4"
Philadelphia-born artist and author Chase-Riboud was the first woman of color to earn an M.F.A. at the Yale School of Art and the youngest artist collected by MoMA. Travels to Egypt and China influenced works such as her Malcolm X Steles. Her novelizations of the life of Sally Hemings and the Amistad uprising brought their stories to the public consciousness.
While projects may refer to political figures, Chase-Riboud insists her art is made solely to create beauty: “I was a woman, and a black woman at that, which was much more political.” She maintains a writing studio in France and a sculpting studio in Rome.
Maps of the Empire State Plaza Concourse and Plaza Levels
Reproduction of the images contained on this page is not permitted without express permission. If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in the collections overseen by the New York State Office of General Services, or an image of an OGS publication or archival material, please contact Curatorial & Visitor Services.