Reflecting the experimental nature of its renowned contemporary art program, the summer season at the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College ranges from major presentations of video artists pushing boundaries in the medium, to a survey examining the underrecognized intersections of Blackness and melancholy in art history. Opening June 25, the exhibitions include:

Dara Birnbaum: Reaction, the first retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States, charts the indelible contributions she has made to the global histories of video, conceptual, performance, and appropriation art. The exhibition’s title echoes Birnbaum’s career-long position toward mass media: across form and method, she has persistently elaborated a vision of art as an empowering force to disrupt quiet acquiescence to authority. Including works from 1975 to 2011, Reaction focuses on major installations, many not seen in the US for years, as well as key single-channel videos and archival materials that provide a wide and in-depth view of her practice.

Ain Bailey, “Untitled” (2022)

Bringing together works by 28 artists, Black Melancholia expands and complicates the notion of melancholy in Western art history and cultures. Featuring painting, sculpture, film, photography, works on paper, and sound from the late 19th century to the present day, the exhibition opens a dialogue with traditional art historical discourses around the representation of melancholia. Featuring holdings from the Marieluise Hessel Collection, Black Melancholia premieres works, new commissions, and US East Coast debuts, assembling artists from the Caribbean, Europe, West Africa, and North America. Among them are William Artis, Ain Bailey, Roy DeCarava, Ja’Tovia Gary, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Sargent Claude Johnson, Rashid Johnson, Valerie Maynard, Charles McGee, Shala Miller, Tyler Mitchell, Arcmanoro Niles, Zohra Opoku, Rose Piper, Pope.L, Augusta Savage, Lorna Simpson, Charisse Pearlina Weston, and Alberta Whittle.

Martine Syms: Grio College expands the notion of a “curriculum” into something far more manifold than is typically understood: a ceaseless and itinerant education that encompasses our whole intellectual life, one built from the theories, thinkers, culture, music, ideas, and teachers that influence us, formally and informally, over time. Grio College is the fictional school in Syms’s feature film The African Desperate (2022), in which an artist attends a heady and heated MFA program in a pastoral setting (much like Syms did herself). Lending this exhibition its title, Grio College here serves as the context for this staging of the artist’s work from the past five years (2017–22), a prolific period of activity and development. One of the most insightful and important artists to show how digital media operates and shapes our culture, Syms consistently explores representations of Blackness and its relationship to vernacular, feminist thought, and radical traditions. The exhibition Grio College features significant new and recent videos and installations while also emphasizing the artist’s ongoing commitment to photography, highlighting the many methods through which she produces images and the way photography underlies her multifaceted art across form.

For more information on CCS Bard’s summer shows, visit

Martine Syms, “Ugly Plymouths” (2020)