Curador do Museu de Artes e Origens, em Nova York, e especialista em arte africana. Graduou-se em Literatura Inglesa e Belas Artes pela City College da Universidade de Cidade de Nova York em 1962. Em 1959, inaugurou o Art’s Studio, que sediou leituras de poetas da geração Beat, como Jack Kerouak, Allen Ginsberg e Frank O’Hara. Obteve Mestrado em História da Arte em 1968 e Doutorado em História da Arte/Antropologia em 1973, ambos pela Universidade de Columbia. Para a realização de seu Doutorado, conduziu pesquisas de campo em Gana, e voltou à África em numerosas ocasiões posteriores, ao longo das quais adquiriu uma grande coleção de obras de arte africana. Entre 1974 e 2006, lecionou Arte Africana no City College da Universidade da Cidade de Nova York. Publicou diversos artigos acadêmicos e livros sobre arte africana e afro-americana, entre os quais The Innovative African Sculptor (1969), Sets, Series and Ensembles in African Art (1985), Emanoel Araujo: Afro-Minimalista Brasileiro (1987) e African Art Masterpieces (1991), entre outros. Atuou como curador convidado para o Brooklyn Museum entre 1967 e 1968 e, desde 2003, participa do comitê científico da Bienal de Florença. Em 2005, inaugurou o Museu de Artes e Origens, no Harlem (Nova York), onde abriga e expõe sua coleção de arte africana e no qual atua como curador-chefe e diretor executivo. Também é artista plástico, com obras no acervo do Museu Afro Brasil.
Born in NYC into an art and music family. Mildred Lucille Jones Preston, Charlestown, SC 1913 – NYC 2007
John Lee Preston, Roanoke, VA.
1898 – NYC 1958
1941 – 1950
Preston is mentored by his mother, father and neighbor Charles Alston.
1952 – 1956
Studies art at the High School of Music and Art (renamed Fiorello La Guardia High school of Music & Art and Performing Arts) with Yole Zaino and Sylvia Milgram. Fellow students Charles Gwathmey (1938 – 2009) and Mimi Gross (1940 – ) introduce Preston to the social realist Rob-
ert Gwathmey ( 1903 – 1988) and the expressionist sculptor Chaim Gross (1904 – 1991), both of whom privately mentor Preston. He becomes interested in the Social Realism of Gwathmey and Ben Shahn (1898 – 1969). Gross acquires one of Preston’s paintings entitled Children
Playing, USA. George paints Go to the
Colored Waiting Room (1954); both paintings in a synthetic cubistic style derived from Gwathmey’s numerous depictions of southern sharecroppers and Alston’s Family paintings. The former work is based on Preston’s
first personal encounter with legal segregation in the Roanoke Virginia railroad station at the age of ten.
Group Show. ACA Gallery 57th St. Honorable mention. Competition for a Personal Exhibition.
1956 – 1961
Majors in fine arts and English literature at The City College of New York. Studies painting and drawing with Robert Borgatta, Florian Kraner, Stuyvesant van Veen. Earns the Bachelor of Arts diploma,
Preston moves to the Lower East Side in order to be closer to the ‘action’
on ‘The Scene’ (the downtown art world). Rents a one room apartment at 9 Second Avenue. Mimi Gross introduces Preston to the painter
Preston moves to 48 East 3rd Street, a storefront loft next to Claes Oldenberg’s storefront studio at
46 East 3rd Street.
Two-person exhibition with John
Purpura at the Phoenix Gallery at
40 Third Avenue.
Stuyvesant van Veen, Preston’s paint- ing professor at CCNY recommends George for a Yaddo Fellowship. At Yaddo, George meets Arvin Newton, Dorothy Parker and the artist Hyde Solomon. (1911 – 1982). Preston is influenced by the juxtaposition of color wheel opposites in Solomon’s landscape paintings.Milder and Pres- ton become friends; Jay introduces Preston to Emilio Cruz,Bob Thompson and Red Grooms. George meets Mary and Robert Frank. George becomes
a member of the Phoenix Gallery,
one of the seminal artist – run galler- ies of ‘Tenth Street’. Preston meets and becomes familiar with the work of the figurative expressionists Jan and Dodi Muller, Bob Thompson and Larry Rivers. George meets Reginald Gammon, Norman Lewis, Earl Miller (Phoenix Gallery), Joe Overstreet and Hartwell Yeargans who in addition to Thompson are among the handful of Black artists on ‘The Scene’.
Solo exhibition, Phoenix Gallery
May 17 – June 4 Solo exhibition. Duo
Gallery 1204 Lexington Ave. NYC
1960 – 1961
Visits Cuba December 2 – January 14 on a freelance assignment for Swank Magazine. Meets Celia Cruz, Benny Moret Vice President Oswaldo Dór- ticos and interviews Pablo Neruda. Paints and draws views of the Cuban landscape and people.
May – September
Works as Director of Children’s Street
Theatre for Black Arts / Har-You-Act.
Travels to Mexico, visits Oaxaca and Vera Cruz. Lives at San Miguel de Soyaltepec with the Mazateca, a
first nations people of the highlands of the Estado de Vera Cruz. Does an amateur ethnographic study. Visits the archeological zones of Mictlán (Mitla), Monte Albán, El Tajín, and the Azteca (Mexica) sites in and around Mexico City; Tenochtitlan,
Tenayuca, Santa Cecilia Acatitlán. Visits the pyramids at Teotihuacán and studies the murals at Tepan- titla where he is impressed by the calligraphic human figures that he perceives to float against solid red backgrounds. George studies the
plan and figures on the relief columns of the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl (The Plumed butterfly). Preston collects
art antiquities of Las Remojadas, Olmeca and Teotihuancano cultures.
Meets Celia Cruz, Mercedes Valdez, Obdulio Morales, Trinidad torregrosa and others for the festival of Caridad de la Cobra celebrated in a ware- house on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Meets the photographer Adger W. Cowans. They share their interests
in Eastern thought and martial arts. They begin the study of Shoto Kan style of Karate do with Sensei Hikoji Hasengawa. Cowans impresses Pres- ton with his ideas on the interface
of painting and photography. Adger explains his own work as “painting with light.” He explains why camer- as are inconsequential without an understanding of light. They begin
a lifetime of discussions on the po- etics or the aesthetic in art. George acquires an Asahi Pentax 35 mm SLR from Adger and begins a lifelong per- suit of the photographic image.
Mentored in photographic tech- niques and wet darkroom procedures by Cowans. Travels to Denmark, Netherlands and France. Meets the Abstract Expressionist Ed Clark in Paris and starts a lifetime friendship and exchange of thought on art.
Admitted to the Program in Primi- tive and Pre-Columbian Art in the Department of Art History and Arche- ology at Columbia University in The City of New York with a Title IV Ful- bright for the study of Non-Western art, archeology, society and culture. Takes courses in Art history (Africa, Americas, Oceania, Mycenaen
and Minoan), Archeology and
While at Columbia Preston sits in on Meyer Schapiro’s lectures on Medie- val and Contemporary art. Schap- iro’s interdisciplinary approach and discourses on the wider definitions of iconography and the difference
between ‘objective content’ (the ele- ments of style observable to the eye) and ‘subjective content’ (sensibility/ inner feeling) have a profound effect on Preston. He decides that works of art with what he frames as compel- ling para-content will be the most interesting. He decides that in his own art subjective, para-content will be his real form and that the entire composition of a work of art should
in itself be iconographic in addition to whatever specific iconographic symbols may be present in the art.
Earns the M.A. diploma in Art History, Columbia University in the City of New York. Thesis: The Akan of Ghana: The Style and Importance of Their Terracotta Funerary Art.
Curates, designs and installs the Afri- can Hall, The Brooklyn Museum, NYC. Receives a Foreign Area Fellowship from the Joint Committee of The So- cial Science Research Council, Amer- ican Council of Learned Societies.
1968 – 1971
Art historical and archeological visits to Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo and Egypt. Extended fieldwork in
Ghana. Becomes a research affiliate at the Department of Archeology, The University of Ghana at Legon. Art his- torical and archeological fieldwork, principally among the Akan peoples
of southern Ghana in Twifo, Denkyera
Akuapem and Fante – Ekumfi Akrah.
Preston teaches an introductory course in African art at The Cooper Union. Margaret Boutros, Michael David Brathwaite, Erica Mapp, Jeanne Moutoussamy and Frank Stewart in attendance. The art careers of each of these students will interface with that of Professor Preston’s in the future.
Meets the artist and calligrapher Leslie Tseng Tseng Yü who introduces Preston to the exhibition Chinese
Calligraphy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art March 14 – May 17 that they visit several times. Preston is taken with the Nine Living Conditions of Calligraphy (...living hand, brush, paper, spirit, water, eye ...) and how this might contribute to his own art.
Earns the Ph. D. Faculty of Political Science, Philosophy and Pure Sci- ence, Columbia University. Doctoral dissertation, Twifo – Hemang and the Art – Leadership Complex of the Akan of Ghana.
1973 – 1988
Publishes books, criticism and art historical essays on classical African and Contemporary art.
February 1 – 28
exhibition at The Arsenal 830 Fifth Avenue (Courtesy Organization of Independent Artists).
December 20 – January 7th
Group exhibition. Tenth Streets Days: The Co – ops of the 50’s. A travelling exhibition at Amos Eno, 14 Sculp-
tors Gallery, Noho Gallery, Pleiades Gallery and Ward – Nasse Gallery. Curated by Dore Ashton and
Amor, Eros and Ribaldry. Group exhibition with Dana Cibulski and Stan Wyatt. Eisner Gallery, City College of New York.
Visits Brazil at the suggestion of Julia Hotton of the Schomburg Center and Haskell Hoffenberg. Discovers the sculpture of Emanoel Alves Araújo. Meets Araújo in São Paulo. Araújo asks Preston to write the catalogue raisonné for his ten year retrospec- tive at the Museum of the City of São Paulo (MASP). The Bilingual publi- cation “Emanoel Araújo: Afro – Mini- malista Brasileiro is realized.
In São Paulo Preston meets Dinah
Papi Guimaerens of Funarte. They de- cide to meet in Rio de Janeiro where they discuss ideas on the nexus of
art, society, and trans – culturalism for future discourse at scholarly meetings in Brasil and USA. This is the start of a lifelong collaboration.
Serves as consultant to Emanoel Araújo, founder of Museu Afro – Bra- sil, for the project A Mão Afro-Bra- sileira / The Afro – Brazilian Hand. (Title recommended by Dr. Preston.) The publication and exhibition travel throughout Brazil in celebration
of the centennial of manumission. The art, artifacts and documents assembled for The Afro-Brazilian
hand will later form the core holdings of the Museu Afro-Brasil at Parque Iberapuera, São Paulo.
Araújo intriduces Preston to Brazilian intellectuals and artists Lygia Clark, Mario Cravo, Haraldo and Mary Cos- ta, Ianelli, Luis Melo Gonzaga, Oc- tavio Araújo, Leon Ferrari, Hercules Barsotti, Wagner Celestino, Rubem Valentim, Mestri Didi and Prof. Juana Elbein Dos Santos.
Preston visits Ilé Asip the N go tereiro ne r S lv dor d B hi . Discovers the writing nd rt of Cl r- iv l do Pr do V ll d res (Nordeste Histórico e Monument l), Debret, Florence, Rugend s, M ch do de Assis, Jorge Am do.
Prof. Preston becomes Ch ir of the
Gr du te Fine Arts Progr m t CCNY. Em noel Ar újo is invited to be Visit- ing University Professor. Leon Ferr ri nd Mestre Didi re invited to
the CCNY Art Dep rtment. They present lectures on their rt nd Br zili n culture.
Preston cur tes the exhibition F culty
+ 1 showing works of rt by CCNY f culty, Em noel Ar újo nd Luis Melo Gonz g .
George st rts series of p intings
nd mono prints entitled, Paginas Brasileiras incorpor ting influences from c lligr phy, nd indigenous
trb l conventions of pl cement into his di lectic of i fr gment tion of pictori l sp ce (picture pl ne) nd the fr me.
George collects sever l engr vings
by Debret, Rugend s nd Ogylvie nd works of rt by Hercules B rsotti,
M rio Cr vo, Leon Ferr ri, Ar újo nd others. These will become
p rt of the future Br zili n collection of the Museum of Art nd
Origins in NYC.
With the support of Fun rte (N tion- l Art Found tion) nd Museu do
C rniv l, Rio de J neiro, Dr. Preston co-cur tes with Liz P pi the exhibi- tion Vital Signs: 100 years of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro t the Eisner G l- lery, City College of New York. The exhibition of 36 photogr phs, plus
rtif cts nd ls focused on form l/style spects of Br zili n
c rniv l nd the soci l history of the festiv l. P pi introduces Preston
to the Br zili n p inter Lito
C v lc nti in NYC.
Vit l Signs becomes p rt of the itin-
er ry of L nd u Tr velling Exhibitions of Los Angeles, C liforni .
The Cultur l Consul of Argentin invites Dr. Preston to cur te n exhibition celebr ting the 500th
ye r nnivers ry of the discovery of Americ . Preston cre tes the exhibi- tion, The Contemporary Rediscovery of America. P intings nd sculpture by 38 L s Americ s rtists includ- ing Br sil, were represented. The exhibition origin ted t the Centro
Cultur l, Cuid d de Buenos Aires nd tr velled to Centro Cultur l do Br sil, Rio de J neiro nd then to the Eisner G llery, Dep rtment of Art City Col- lege, City University of New York.
Preston’s mother, Mildred introduces him to the novels of the Br zili n An- tonio Olinto set in Br zil, Nigeri , Sāo Thome, D homey nd Togo. He re ds Olinto’s trilogy: The Water House /
A Casa da Agua (1969), The King of
Ketu / O Rei do Keto (1980), The Glass
Throne / Trono de Vidro (1987).
Apollo The ter, H rlem, NY. Presents F shion show of couture nd everyd y we r designed by Preston fe turing his h nd p inted
f brics illustr ting Br zili n flor nd f un in d nger of extinction such
s m rmosets, nd umbrell birds inspired by visits to the Bot nic l
G rdens of Emper dor Dom Pedro nd the document ry dr wings of Rugend s, T un y, nd Florence from their 19th century encyclopedic expeditions to Br zil.
Group exhibition Faculty Plus 1. Includes Em noel Ar újo nd Luis Melo Gonz g .
Antonio Olynto M rques d Roch wins Prémio M ch do de Assis.
s Origens t Museo N cion l de Bel s Artes. Coorden ç o Ger l:
Helois Aleixo Lustos Coorden ç o Técnic : Din h Guim erens
Cur dori : Giov n Moriconi
Din h nd George m ke pl ns for
MoA O to open in NYC.
George meets Antonio nd Zor
Olinto t their home in Cop c b n . Visits the Olintos sever l times, studying their extensive collection
of Afric n rt cquired when Olinto
w s cultur l t ché to Nigeri in the e rly 1960’s.
Preston contributes dr wings nd Ess y Art and Resistance / Arte e Resistènsa: o Povo Fante de Gana e Suas Bandeiras / the Fante People and Their Flags for the c t log nd exhibition, Os Herdeiros d Noite
t Centro de Cultur de Belo Horizonte. Em noelAr újo , Editor e Coorden ç o Ger l.
July, August. Group exhibition. The Baseball Show. Curt M rcus G llery, 578 Bro dw y NYC
Moder tor rt nd nthropology
p nel for. XX Econtro Anu l ANPOCS, C x mbu, Br zil.
George cre tes Notas Brasileiras
series of dr wings b sed on the l ndsc pe of the Br zili n st te
of Min s Ger is,
Presenter, Semin rio Intern çion l. Antropologi , Arte e Diversid de. Pontific Universid de C tolic , Rio de J neiro. “Em pesquis de Um Estétic do Povo Ak n.”
Election of Antonio Olinto to
Ac demi Br sileir de Letr s
Group Exhibiton. Fortieth
Annivers ry, Phoenix G llery.
Universid de Severino Sombr requests Dr. Preston’s support of the nomin tion of Antonio Olinto for
The Nobel Pe ce Prize in Liter ture.
Preston submits a reasoned belle lettre to the Committee.
The photographers Frank Stewart and Petra Richterova accompany Preston on a field research trip to Ghana. They will make subsequent trips in 2001, and 2005.
Presenter, Feira de Diversidade Etnica. Pontifica Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. Tradição e Mudança Africana / Tradition and Innovation in African Art.
January. Preston is promoted from the junior chieftaincy of Ankobea, and ‘enstooled’ as an Aboafohene at Akuapem-Mamfe, Ghana. Richtero- voa documents the installation of
an African-American to an Akan chieftancy. She donates the suite of photographs to the Schomburg Cen- ter for Research in Black Culture.
Group exhibition. Gallery 128.
128 Rivington Street, NYC
Designs the stage set for 1 Minus One by Gyavira Lasana for the Theatre for the New City, 155 First Avenue, NYC.
George meets the Brazilian artist Duda Penteado in NYC. Preston contributes essay and poems to publication of Beauty for Ashes, a monograph on Penteado. Several collaborations follow.
Establishment of Museu Afro-Brasil, São Paulo. Paintings, reliefs and drawings by Preston, Colin Chase, Mel Edwards form the special gallery of Arte Negro Afro-Americano.
Preston initiates first in a series of donations of classical African art to the Museu Afro-Brasil.
Innauguration of Museum of Art
and Origins, NYC by Dr. Preston, Dr. Guimaerens, Frank Stewart, Rosalia de La Soledad, Dona Thompson-Ray, Aay Preston-Myint. On view: Brazilian works of art by Araújo, Barsotti, Cravo, Debret, Penteado, Rugendas, Valentim and Anonymous Tupi-Gua- rani artists.
Consultant. Planning committee for Primeiro Encontro Afro-Atlantico at Museu Afro-Brasil, São Paulo.
Group Exhibition. Black Baseball.
Leroy Neiman Gallery, Harlem.
Realization of Primeiro Encontro Afro-Atlantico Dr. Preston presents his paper on Conflicting Curatorial Agendas re. “Post Black” issues.
Lecture: An Art Historical Perspective of Terrorism at MUBI. São Paulo.
Lecture: Conflicting Cu atorial Agendas re. “Post Black Art.” University of São Paulo at Bauru.
Career Achievement Award from The Art Alumni of the Alumni Association of The City College of New York.
November 12 – January 7
Like NOW: Adger, Melvin & George. Three person art exhibition with Adger W. Cowans and Melvin Van Peebles at Merton D. Simpson Gallery, 38 West 28th Street, NYC.
Dr. Preston curates the exhibition Duda Penteado: Raizes e Fragmen- tos/ Roots and Fragments at Museu Afro-Brasil, São Paulo.
Preston donates 12 works of classical African sculpture to the permanent collection of Museu de Arte e Origins, Sta. Tereza, Rio de Janeiro. Collec- tion dedicated in memory of John
Lee and Mildred L. Preston. Individ- ual works dedicated in memory or in honor of Brazilians and Americans
in arts and letters including Emano- el Araújo, Ronald Carvalho, Henry Grimes, Babalao Deoscorides Max- miliano dos Santos Rosana Paulino, Rubem Valentim.
November 13 – January 16, 2017
Wilmer Jennings Gallery
at Kenkeleba House, NYC.
Journeys of an Afro-Atlantic Envoy. George Nelson Preston: Select works of Art 1954 – 2016 including the series of paintings, drawings and mono- prints entitled Notas Brasileiras and Paginas Brasileiras.
The Academia Brasileira de Arte elects Dr. Preston to its newly
created Chair 14 of its corresponding patronymic, Pierre Verger. George is ceremonially seated at the Museu
de Arte e Origens, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro on June 30th.
January 6 – April Imagining Downtown. Group exhibition
at the Gray Gallery, NYU.