Back to Haunt the Hell Out of You -- The Splendid and Bragadocious Raven Chanticleer (January 17 - April 4, 2010)
From 1989 until his death in 2002, Raven Chanticleer was the owner and sole proprietor of the Harlem African American Wax Museum, housed in the basement of his brownstone on West 115th Street. Consisting of some two-dozen statues -- Frederick Douglass, Mother Hale, Madonna (yes, the Material Girl) -- paintings, African sculpture, and other items, the museum was a total-work-of-art. Chanticleer made the two-dozen life-size statues himself from chicken wire, paper-mache’, and beeswax and though some bore only scant resemblance to their subjects, neither mimetic nor historical accuracy were his primary concern. His goal was the creation of an ambitious installation that would outlive him and be his crowning achievement.
The museum no longer exists. When Chanticleer died, his nieces and nephews gutted the museum and sold the brownstone, over the objections of many of Chanticleer’s friends. The family, which is deeply religious, remains determined to obliterate every trace of the man and his art, in part, many believe, because they refuse to condone Chanticleer’s “flamboyant” lifestyle. This thoroughly researched exhibition -- consisting of photographs and ephemera -- will, we hope, be a first step towards re-establishing Chanticleer’s legacy.
In addition to historical material about the museum, the exhibition also contains six papier-mache' statues, made by Triple Candie, of living Harlem fixtures or celebrities: historian and activist Michael Henry Adams, Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, rapper and businessman Jay-Z, comedian and acctress Mo'nique, congressman Charles Rangel, and real estate agent Willie Suggs. At the close of the exhibition, the statues were given either to their subjects or to others in the neighborhood.
Triple thanks to Nikki Johnson, the New York Times/Redux Pictures, Melanie Marie Goodreaux, Coreen Simpson, the Schomburg Library, Max Gerber, Ruth Morgan, Barbara Hurowitz and Randy Kennedy/Community Works, and everone else who helped to make this exhibition possible.