Under My Feet
Saturday October 7, 2023 – Saturday December 16, 2023
Image: Detail of Under My Feet, 2023. Courtesy of the artist
Under My Feet
Saturday, October 7th from 4 – 6pm
Under My Feet by artist Ilana Harris-Babou delves into her childhood memories, reimagining and reinventing the playful rituals of her Central Brooklyn upbringing. In this exhibition, she meticulously layers and transforms the sounds, colors, and textures of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, East Flatbush, and Crown Heights—neighborhoods predominantly inhabited by African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and West Indian immigrants. Through this creative process, Harris-Babou revisits and reconstructs her sense of home and belonging, engaging with themes of intimacy, witness, dispossession, and the possibilities for the sidewalks and storefronts of Nostrand Avenue, Church Avenue, and Flatbush Avenue.
Through a blend of sound, imagery, and video, Harris-Babou stages a vivid representation of her childhood neighborhood, bringing to light diverse notions of place hidden in plain sight. This immersive installation presents itself as a nostalgic journey to her youth—skipping over sidewalk cracks, perching on cellar gates beneath bodegas, and pondering the vibrancy of its towering signs.
Harris-Babou layers the interior with an expansive streetscape, using the gallery as a place to celebrate intergenerational businesses and retail spaces that have served as hubs for liberatory pedagogies within Afro-diasporic communities. A new video pays homage to Lenore Briggs and the Lefferts Gardens Montessori, where Black children were encouraged to shape their own sense of purpose and affirm their individuality within their community. On the opposite end of the gallery, she recreates the protective havens provided by neighborhood institutions like the African Record Centre, offering a glimpse into the resources they have accumulated over the years and inviting audiences to choreograph their own worldbuilding experience through contemplation and curiosity.
Under My Feet recognizes and reconnects with a vanishing landscape of self-determination in the face of gentrification and displacement, while claiming a future rooted in its enduring legacy.
About the Artist
Ilana Harris-Babou. Photo: PJ Roundtree.
Ilana Harris-Babou (b. 1991, Brooklyn, New York) has presented solo exhibitions of her work at The Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University (2023); Artspace New Haven (2022); Kunsthaus Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany (2021); Goucher College, Baltimore, MD (2021); Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (2020); and The Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY (2017).
She has participated in major exhibitions including the Istanbul Design Biennial, Turkey (2020); and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2019), and group exhibitions at The Wellcome Collection, London, UK (2023); California College of the Arts Wattis Institute, San Francisco, CA (2021); The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2021); and Queens Museum, Queens, NY (2020). She lives and works in Brooklyn and Middletown, CT.
On the Ground
On the Ground is a yearlong research project and exhibition series about New York City’s ground floor. Through a close look at the urban typology of the storefront, this expansive endeavor presents newly commissioned artistic explorations and dialogues about the heterogeneous threshold between public and private space throughout 2023. The project will unfold through three exhibitions, a radio show, an open call, a public program, and a thematic reader.
Under My Feet by Ilana Harris-Babou. Organized by the Storefront Team.
Graphic design by Estudio Herrera
Photography by PJ Rountree
This exhibition has been made possible through the support of the Graham Foundation, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; with invaluable support from Storefront’s Board of Directors, the Storefront Circle, Storefront members, and individual donors. Storefront is a proud member of CANNY (Collaborative Arts Network New York), currently supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, Imperfect Family Foundation, and the Jay DeFeo Foundation.