Cliff Joseph, an artist raised in Harlem who within the Sixties and ’70s led protests in opposition to main New York museums to advocate for the inclusion of Black artists, and who later pioneered the follow of multiculturalism within the subject of artwork remedy, died on Nov. 8 in a hospital in Chicago. He was 98.
His spouse, Ann Joseph, confirmed the dying.
In 1963, Mr. Joseph, whose work depicted the social unrest sweeping the nation, was struggling as an artist in New York. He was in Washington that August, standing on the entrance of the group on the Lincoln Memorial when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I was so moved by that experience and what it said to me about the way I should be using my art skills,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in a 2006 documentary, “Conversations With Cliff Joseph.” “This really awakened me.”
Mr. Joseph and a bunch of different artists based the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which started agitating for the inclusion of African-American artists in New York museums.
When the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened the present “Harlem on My Mind” in 1969, their trigger gained consideration. The exhibition, which documented the tradition and historical past of Harlem, included no work or sculptures by Black artists. Mr. Joseph and his fellow activists picketed outdoors the museum for days with indicators that learn, “Harlem on Whose Mind?”
Their voices have been heard.
Mayor John V. Lindsay criticized the exhibition. The New York State Division of Human Rights denounced it. And the Met’s curator, Thomas Hoving, issued a uncommon public apology.
In 1971, the Whitney Museum of American Art opened an exhibition referred to as “Contemporary Black Artists in America.” The coalition criticized the museum for assigning a white curator to the mission.
“It is essential,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in a press release, “that it be selected by one whose wisdom, strength and depth of sensitivity regarding Black art is drawn from the well of his own Black experience.”
The Whitney’s director, John I.H. Baur, instructed the information media, “The coalition stands for a kind of separatism I don’t believe in.”
Fifteen Black artists, together with the sculptor Richard Hunt and the painter Sam Gilliam, withdrew from the exhibition on its opening day. Soon after that, the group staged a protest present, “Rebuttal to Whitney Museum Exhibition,” at Acts of Art, a Black-owned gallery in Greenwich Village.
After the inmate rebellion on the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York in 1971, the group lobbied for the implementation of arts packages for prisoners, and Mr. Joseph despatched a letter to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.
“Those who are at the head of the oppressive system know well the power of art and fear it in the hands of the people,” he wrote. “That is why power structures throughout man’s history have sought to suppress and control the creative artist.”
That identical yr, their arts program, typically taught by artists from the coalition, was applied on the Tombs in Lower Manhattan, later increasing to correctional amenities throughout the nation.
In his 40s, Mr. Joseph entered the psychological well being subject of artwork remedy, serving to to introduce ideas like racial sensitivity and cultural competency to the career.
He taught artwork remedy at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for 11 years and labored at Albert Einstein College of Medicine within the Bronx. He was the primary Black member of the American Art Therapy Association and have become president of the New York Art Therapy Association in 1981.
In the 2006 documentary, Mr. Joseph mirrored on his contributions to multiculturalism in his subject.
“It’s not that a person has to be Black to deal with Black patients,” he mentioned. “But if a white person comes in to deal with a group of Black people, that person should know that a culture-specific approach should be used.”
Otherwise, he continued, “they’re not going to understand where you’re coming from, and you won’t understand where they’re coming from, and nothing is going to happen.”
Clifford Ricardo Joseph was born on June 23, 1922, in Panama City to a big Caribbean household. His father, Samuel, labored on the development of the Panama Canal, and his mom, Leontine (Ellis) Joseph, was a maid. When he was 18 months previous, his household settled in Harlem.
Cliff’s older brother, Freddy, aspired to change into a police officer; the identical day he was admitted into the academy, he was fatally shot by a person in his condominium constructing. To assist his household, Mr. Joseph enlisted within the Army as a young person. He later served abroad in a subject artillery unit.
After World War II, Mr. Joseph studied at Pratt on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a B.F.A. in 1952. While working at a welfare heart, he met Ann Voggenthaler, whom he married within the mid-Sixties.
Just a few years after attending the March on Washington together with his spouse and listening to Dr. King converse, Mr. Joseph mailed Dr. King some Christmas playing cards he had designed honoring the younger ladies killed within the Ku Klux Klan bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Dr. King despatched a letter to Mr. Joseph’s East Village condominium.
“I was deeply impressed and very grateful for your generous gesture,” he wrote. “It was especially gratifying since I have always felt, since I first saw it, that your art expressed the meaning and sacrifice of our struggle.”
In the Sixties, Mr. Joseph helped deal with psychiatric sufferers at Jacobi Hospital within the Bronx, the place he befriended Edith Kramer, a outstanding artwork therapist. Ms. Kramer invited him to observe her work with youngsters on the hospital, and Mr. Joseph was moved by what he witnessed. She then introduced him to the early conferences of the American Art Therapy Association.
“I got into this room with all these people and I didn’t see anyone that I could recognize as being of my race,” Mr. Joseph mentioned in 2006. “I felt there was some politeness when I was introduced, but I didn’t feel I was being welcomed in.”
The American Art Therapy Association gave Mr. Joseph an award in 2008 acknowledging his dedication to social activism within the subject. He was additionally featured in a documentary, “Wheels of Diversity in Art Therapy: Pioneers of Color,” which profiled a number of therapists who launched a multicultural perspective.
In 2001, after years residing within the rent-regulated Westbeth Artists Housing advanced within the West Village, Mr. Joseph and his spouse moved to Chicago, the place they later joined the neighborhood protest of a petroleum coke storage facility on the Southeast Side owned by the Koch brothers. Mr. Joseph additionally wrote a science-fiction novel, “The Revelation of Number 10: A Galactic Neighbor’s Appeal.”
In addition to his spouse, Mr. Joseph is survived by two youngsters from a earlier marriage, Clifford Jr. and Leonette Joseph; a brother, Ronald; and three grandchildren. A daughter, Zuri Joseph, died in 2013.
In 2018, Hunter College in New York revisited “Rebuttal to Whitney Museum Exhibition” with an occasion at its campus gallery. The exhibition remounted works from the unique 1971 present, together with one in every of Mr. Joseph’s oil work, “The Superman.”
That portray depicts a bloated Klansman holding a rifle and a cross standing in entrance of a Confederate flag. But he’s bare, carrying his white gown on his arm, and Mr. Joseph has rendered him spectral and forlorn.