Storefront for Art and Architecture

Storefront for Art and Architecture

New York, NY


What Black Is This, You Say? A Public Artwork by Amanda Williams

Apr 26, '21 11:36 PM EST
Grid of squares from Amanda Williams' Instagram account.
Grid of squares from Amanda Williams' Instagram account.

Storefront for Art and Architecture presents:

What Black Is This, You Say?

A Year-Long Public Artwork by Amanda Williams

Project Dates: May 2021 – May 2022

Launch Events:

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

Live Painting Session with Amanda Williams: 2–6 pm

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

Saturday May 15th, 2021

Collective Painting Sessions (with virtual participation by Amanda Williams), 2–6 pm

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Website Launch and Virtual Program with Amanda Williams & Cauleen Smith, 6–8 pm

RSVP for all events at

#whatblackisthis       @awstudioart       @polymodestudio       @storefrontnyc

On Saturday, May 1st, 2021, Storefront for Art and Architecture launches What Black Is This, You Say? a year-long public artwork initiative by Amanda Williams that transforms the organization’s facade. The project begins with collective painting sessions led by the artist on the first three Saturdays of May (May 1st, May 8th, and May 15th) from 2–6 pm at Storefront’s gallery at 97 Kenmare Street. On Tuesday, June 1st from 6–8 pm, Storefront will host a virtual event with Amanda Williams in conversation with artist Cauleen Smith. The public artwork will be on view until May 2022, accompanied by a digital program of writings, works, and events released each month starting on June 1st, 2021 at

About the Project

What Black Is This,You Say? began as an informal response to #BlackoutTuesday, a social media protest campaign that invited the public to post black squares on Instagram. This “blackout” of communication on June 2nd, 2020 was intended to be a show of solidarity with Black lives and the calls for justice in response to the murder of George Floyd and many others before him. 

“I’ll be honest. I wasn’t feeling the blackout. I hate stuff like that, but I caved. Wanted to be in solidarity. But color is everything to me. You can’t just say “black”...which one?” –Amanda Williams

Drawing upon her past work exploring color theory, Williams sought to bring attention to the plurality, complexity, and nuance of Black experience(s). Over the following five months, in order to challenge the black square as a monolithic representation, she posted 120+ shades or textures on Instagram – each with a corresponding caption. Together, they provide a rich palette of overlapping and divergent narratives and histories that inform Black identity.

At Storefront, Williams presents a public artwork that more deeply explores twelve of these shades, each one painted on one of the twelve moving panels of the gallery’s facade that serve as hinges between the public realm and the gallery interior. The work constitutes a permanent transformation of Storefront’s facade, which all subsequent exhibitions will navigate and build upon in various ways.

Alongside this public artwork, Storefront presents a digital program of visual, written, and live content at Each month from June 2021 until May 2022, a new shade will be explored through images and memories from the artist; commissioned texts from artists, writers, and cultural figures; and public submissions. Together, these discussions interrogate and contextualize commonly held narratives around Black culture, joy, spirituality, suffering, agency, labor, and more.

Visit to learn more and RSVP for upcoming programming.

About the Artist

Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect. Her creative practice employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of how race shapes the ways in which we assign value to space in cities. The landscapes in which she operates are the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have misshapen most major US cities. Williams’ installations, paintings, and works on paper seek to inspire new ways of looking at the familiar, and in the process, raise questions about the state of urban space and ownership in America. 

In the spring and summer of 2021, Williams presents three bodies of work at New York City organizations. In addition to this public artwork at Storefront, they include two projects organized by The Museum of Modern Art:

Embodied Sensations, a participatory artwork that considers the transformation of public space during the global pandemic—and the stark inequities and systemic injustices that underlie such shifts. Embodied Sensations is on view in The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium from April 10th – June 20th, 2021.

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, MoMA’s first ever exhibition to explore the ongoing impact of anti-black racism on the shaping of architecture and the built environment. Williams’ piece, We’re Not Down There, We’re Over Here, is presented alongside ten other newly commissioned works by architects, designers, and artists that explore ways in which erased histories can be made visible and equity can be built. 

About On Maintenance

What Black is This, You Say? is presented as part of On Maintenance, Storefront’s interim program launched in the midst of the global pandemic. The program introduces an interjection and a moment of pause in our previously scheduled programming to address aspects of maintenance and care, exploring what it means to both sustain and rehaul our spaces, our social and political systems, and our bodies and minds. What Black is This, You Say? follows three other projects in the program: StorefrontTV Season 3, Re-Source, and A Long Evening with Christian Nyampeta.

About Storefront for Art and Architecture

Storefront for Art and Architecture advances innovative and critical ideas at the intersection of architecture, art, and design. Founded in 1982, Storefront's experimental programming provides alternative platforms for dialogue and collaboration focused on issues of the built environment and the future of our cities, territories, and public life. 

General Information

Storefront for Art and Architecture

Gallery Address: 97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012

Phone: (212) 431-5795

Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 12 -5 pm


What Black Is This, You Say? A Public Artwork by Amanda Williams. Graphic design by Polymode. Organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2021.