Kenseth Armstead is a conceptual artist. Armstead has created provocative conceptual art for three decades. His work has been included in pivotal explorations of history, American culture, ethnicity, and institution defining moments. Selected historic exhibitions which include his work are: “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art” at the Whitney Museum of American Art; “It’s Happening! Celebrating 50 Years of Public Art in NYC Parks” in Central Park, NY, NY, Presented by NYC Parks, Art in the Parks; “Frames of Reference: Reflections on Media” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; “Race in Digital Space” at the MIT List Visual Arts Center; “Veni Vidi Video” at the Studio Museum in Harlem (their first video exhibition in 2003); “Open House: Working in Brooklyn” at the Brooklyn Museum; “Edited at EAI: Video Interference” at Electronic Arts Intermix (celebrating 45 years of their award winning collection); “Modern Heroics, 75 years of African American Expressionism” at the Newark Museum of Art.
Armstead’s videos, drawings and sculptures are included in the collections of: Centre Pompidou; African American Museum in Dallas, Texas; Newark Museum of Art; Studio Museum in Harlem; and numerous public and private collections. Numerous reviews, which include, L Magazine, The New York Times, Art in America, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post have favorably discussed his videos, sculptures and media installations.
Solo exhibitions of Armstead’s work have been mounted in galleries, kunsthalles, museums and alternative spaces. The list includes: Churner and Churner, New York, NY; LMAKprojects, New York, NY; Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, New York, NY; and FUTURA centre for contemporary art, Prague, Czech Republic.
The list of grants won in support of Armstead’s work over the years include: the inaugural Skowhegan School of the Arts David C. Driskell Fellowship; the NYFA Video Fellowship; the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant; the NYSCA Individual Artist Award in Film/Video and New Technical Production; the Film/Media Grant from the Creative Capital Foundation; and the Digital Matrix Commission from the Longwood Arts Project and the Bronx Council on the Arts.
Armstead received a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art & Design in 1990. While still an undergraduate, he participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Upon completion of his degree, he moved to New York City to attend the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (1990-1991). He now holds an MS in Integrated Digital Media from the NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering (2005), which awarded him a full scholarship, Excellence in Integrated Digital Media Award.
Armstead has co-authored multimedia installations collaboratively with the art-band, X-PRZ, which he co-founded with his mentor Tony Cokes (1991-2001). The art-band served to critique culture, resist the notion of the individual productive genius and challenge social norms, using ephemera, historical and documentary video as a base material. He was also the founding Managing Editor of Rhizome Internet, (currently rhizome.org) which he helped launch with Mark Tribe in 1996. Before Rhizome there simply wasn’t criticism for new media art. Rhizome provided a focused and generous discursive platform for a new community of artists to consider the challenge of producing meaningful work outside the rules of painting and sculpture.
Armstead participated as Artist in Residence at: Harvestworks; the Castle Trebesice, Prague, CZ; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s, Workspace Program; Eyebeam Center for Art + Technology; Galley Aferro; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s, Swing Space Program on Governors Island; the Brooklyn Museum, Library and Archive; Socrates Sculpture Park; the Louise Bourgeois Endowed Residency for a Sculptorat Yaddo; and currently the Drawing Center, Open Sessions Program (2018-2020).
The Siggraph Asia 2009 conference in Yokohama, Japan presented scenes from Armstead’s decade long “Spook™” project in the Art Gallery. Outtakes from the “Spook™” project were also included in a feature length documentary which was broadcast on PBS nationally; “Lafayette: The Lost Hero,” directed by the academy award nominated, Oren Jacoby. Additionally, Armstead served as an historical consultant on the project. The “Spook™” project is still the most complete record of the Historical figure, James Armistead Lafayette. James Armistead Lafayette was a double agent spy for George Washington and his intelligence reports led to the end the American Revolution.
Commissioned work from Armstead’s series “Farther Land” include site-specific installations at: Olana State Historic Site, “Heresy • Hearsay”, for an iteration of the award-winning exhibition Groundswell in 2014; Socrates Sculpture Park, “Master Work: Astoria Houses, Building 24”, in the Emerging Artist Fellowship exhibition in 2015; BRIC House, in The Project Room, “Master Work: Slaves of New York 1776” in 2018; and Union Square Park, “Washington 20/20/20” at the George Washington Equestrian Monument, Presented by NYC Art in the Parks Program in 2018. Future commissions are planned for: The NYC DOT ART, Community Commission, Harlem, NY in 2020 and Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh, NY, Presented by Strong Room Inc in 2021.
Armstead tirelessly works to explore difficult terrain, new histories, complex identities and nuanced subjects with art. His work seeks to create beauty out of the connection to and honoring of the invisible and forgotten in American Culture.