The Kitchen, the nonprofit arts space in Chelsea, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Its timeline doubles as a history of downtown experimentalism: it has helped reveal artists like Laurie Anderson and Simone Leigh, while consistently privileging research practices, adventurous formats and cross-disciplinary exchange.
Now Legacy Russell becomes executive director and chief curator in September, succeeding Tim Griffin. Russell has been the associate curator of exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem since 2018.
A dynamic curator with a strong interest in performance, digital and internet-based practices, Russell expanded the Studio Museum’s investment in those fields. She is also a theorist with an acclaimed 2020 book, “Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto,” and a second book, “Black Meme,” forthcoming.
In a telephone interview, Russell described growing up in the East Village, frequenting what she called the “broad constellation” of downtown progressive art spaces including the Kitchen, as well as the club scene. From the culture of those venues, she said, she learned that producing art events is not just about programming but also “thinking about how to center the body in doing that work — the human beings who do the care and carrying.”
She earned a graduate degree in art history from the department of visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. She will be the Kitchen’s first Black executive director, said Griffin, her predecessor.
In a telephone interview, Griffin lauded Russell’s “macrocosmic understanding of the art field,” adding: “She creates visionary relationships among artists.” And in an email, Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum, described Russell as “a leading writer, theorist and curator of her generation, vitally alert to the current moment and fearless in her exploration of future possibilities.”
Russell said the Kitchen’s longevity testifies to the force of avant-garde art even in a city that has grown more expensive and complicated for artists, and has been buffeted by the pandemic.
Her role, she said, would be to carry that momentum forward.
“I think deeply about intersections — across Blackness, queerness, feminist histories — and the future possibilities of taking risks,” Russell said, “and how art institutions can play a critical role in making that possible, by giving artists the support to take monumental risks.”