The memory of Just Above Midtown, the famed New York art space that launched the careers of numerous Black artists, will remain alive long at Museum of Modern Art, whose exhibition to devoted to it just closed this past weekend.
On Wednesday, MoMA revealed that it has established an archive devoted to Just Above Midtown — or JAM, as it was known for short — that will be housed within the institution’s collection of research materials.
The archive was made possible by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, whose leader, Elizabeth Alexander, said in a statement that JAM was “a vital space not only for Black artists in the city and the vivid, ever-evolving work they created, but also for the dynamism of New York’s arts community as a whole.”
Founded by Linda Goode Bryant in 1974, JAM existed briefly as a commercial gallery before becoming a nonprofit alternative space. While it is best remembered for supporting Black artists, it also supported women artists and artists of color more broadly by the time it closed in 1986. David Hammons, Lorraine O’Grady, and Senga Nengudi were among those to stage some of their key early works there.
But the MoMA show, curated by Thomas (T.) Jean Lax, foregrounded how JAM was more than just a gallery — it also held programming ranging from politically oriented events to performance art showcases, all with an eye toward luring the community into JAM’s own art world.
The archive includes materials such as artists’ slides, correspondence, press releases, publications, checklists, and more. The Mellon Foundation’s gift will support an archivist who will work with these materials for a one-year period. MoMA plans to make the archive available for future projects staged within the galleries.
In a statement, Goode Bryant, who now runs the organization Project EATS, said, “Artists’ imaginations and creativity shaped and made JAM what it was and what it continues to be today, fresh and alive. After 50 years in storage, the JAM archive has a home at MoMA where it can continue to energize, challenge, and inspire current and future generations of artists and those of us who are fortunate to engage and experience their work.”