New York, NY,
16:09 PM

Carrie Mae Weems’ The Shape of Things Opens in Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall

Weems’ Largest Exhibition in the Last Decade Features New Multidisciplinary Commissions Reflecting on the Last Five Years in America  Including Multimedia Installations, a Performance Series

Newly Announced Public Convening to Take Place December 9-11

Exhibition runs December 2 – December 31, 2021

One of the most eminent image makers and social commentators in America, MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems opens today a major new commission and the largest, most significant exhibition of her multidisciplinary artistic practice in the last decade. Throughout her career, Weems has produced a prolific and complex body of work, pushing the boundaries of photography and blurring the line between art and activism. Her new work, The Shape of Things, builds on the convening of the same name and accompanying public programming that Weems hosted at the Armory during her residency in 2017, using art as a lens to probe the political and social issues of the day. Reflecting the “circus-like” quality of contemporary American political life, Weems conjures a dark setting in the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall with an exhibition that encompasses the breadth of her artistic output—including new multimedia installations and iconic works from the past decade, as well as a performance series and convening of artists. This timely project, which will be situated in the Drill Hall from December 2 through December 31, 2021, was conceived as a platform for collective investigation and reflection on the complexity of the American experience.

Building on the convening and public programming developed as part of the 2017 collaboration between Weems, curator Avery Willis Hoffman, and the Armory, The Shape of Things incorporates a three-day convening in a nod to what has become a trademark of Weems’ practice. This gathering of performers, thinkers, and activists, entitled Land of Broken Dreams will explore what it is to be American in this time of turmoil and disruption through conversation, interventions, and engagements throughout the exhibition and the building. Spanning three days, the convening will feature a robust line up of discussions and performances including Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Jawwaad Taylor, Deborah Willis, and Agnes Gund. Over the course of these three days, renowned artists, poets, thinkers, singers, dancers, musicians, such as Radcliffe Bailey, Nona Hendryx, Jason Moran, Julie Mehretu, Shirin Neshat, and Tyler Mitchell, will activate the Armory with spirited discussions and performances, including concerts with Somi, Vijay Iyer, and Terri Lyne Carrington with Lisa Fischer.

  • Thursday, December 9 – Grammy-nominated singer Somi, known for her wide-ranging vocal technique and her original blend of modern jazz with African music styles, will perform a selection of songs from her albums Lagos Musique, Petite Afrique, and The Holy Room.
  • Friday, December 10 – Opening and convocation with Carrie Mae Weems followed presentations and pop-up performances throughout the day, Agnes Gund and Catherine Gund in conversation with Carrie Mae Weems, discussions with Julie Mehetu, Shahzia Sikander and Tyler Mitchell, ending with two performances by composer/pianist Vijay Iyer, with vocalist and composer Arooj Aftab and bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh
  • Saturday, December 11 – Roundtable discussion, conversations, poetry readings, and performances throughout the day, featuring Radcliffe Bailey, Jessica Bell Brown, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and Antwaun Sargent, ending with a concert of improvised compositions by NEA Jazz Master, three-time Grammy Award-winning drummer, producer, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington, and Grammy Award-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer leading an all-star ensemble.

“I am fascinated by 19th century media, so for the Drill Hall I created a cyclorama that contains a new film that pits the rise of the right along with its puppeteers, clowns, jokers and two-faced speakers & spies, charlatans & prophets of fake news, conspiracy theorists against the emerging forces of progress. In this world, ‘normal’ is turned on its head and all bets are off,” said Carrie Mae Weems. “It is a time of murder, mayhem and mass protest and when covert operators of corruption bear their heads for all to see. My work centers on what happens when all facades are stripped away, and the people are left standing face to face with the realities of our time.”

Celebrated for her insightful photography, investigations of social dynamics, and ability to convene leading thinkers and artists through her work, Weems presents major new works alongside existing works that explore the circus of politics and, in Weems’ words, “the push for a just society, along with the starts and stops on the long slow road towards progress.” At the center of the exhibition is a new, large-scale video installation evoking a 19th-century cyclorama that offers new film material by Weems with original music by Jawwaad Taylor. Other installation elements include a large-scale photographic installation; a memorial wall dedicated to victims of anti-Black violence; Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me (2012), a “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion with music by Jason Moran, the longtime curator for the Armory’s Artists Studio Series; and additional sculpture and installation works suggestive of a 19th-century side-show, including a peep show and dioramas.


Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953, Portland, OR) is widely renowned as one of the most influential contemporary American artists living today. Over the course of nearly four decades, Weems has developed a complex body of work employing text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video, but she is most celebrated as a photographer. Activism is central to Weems’ practice, which investigates race, family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Over the last 30 years of her prolific career, Weems has been consistently ahead of her time and an ongoing presence in contemporary culture. Her work is organized into cohesive bodies that function like chapters in a perpetually unfolding narrative, demonstrating her gift as a storyteller. The Kitchen Table Series (1990), one of Weems’ most seminal works, is widely considered one of the most important bodies of contemporary photography. Through her work, Weems tackles a number of complex contemporary issues, demanding reconsideration of predominant narratives throughout our history.

Weems has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at major national and international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frist Center for Visual Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, Spain. She is represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and The Tate Modern, London.


The Shape of Things is on view at Park Avenue Armory December 2 through December 31, 2021.


Thursday, December 2– Friday, December 31, 2021

Tuesdays – Thursdays 12:00pm-7:00pm, Fridays 12:00pm-9:00pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12:00pm-6:00pm

Open Monday, December 27 from 12:00pm-7:00pm

Check website for special holiday hours

Tickets at $18 and free for Armory members

Convening Schedule

Thursday, December 9 performances at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Friday, December 10 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 11 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Health & Safety Protocols

The health and safety of the public is of paramount concern to the Armory. All ticket-holders must be fully vaccinated. “Fully vaccinated” means that you received your final dose at least 14 days before your performance date. At check-in, ticket-holders will be required to show proof of full vaccination (the New York State Excelsior Pass or a hard copy or photo of your vaccination card) and a government-issued photo ID. Masks must be properly worn inside at all times. Park Avenue Armory surpasses CDC and New York Standards for ventilation, observes strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and provides disinfecting stations throughout the public areas.


Citi is the Armory’s 2021 Season Sponsors.

Support for Park Avenue Armory’s artistic season has been generously provided by the Charina Endowment Fund, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Foundation, the Marc Haas Foundation, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, the Leon Levy Foundation, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, the Richenthal Foundation, and the Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation. The artistic season is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Additional support has been provided by the Armory's Artistic Council.

The Shape of Things is supported by generous grants from the Ford Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the VIA Art Fund, Ken Kuchin and Tyler Morgan, and the Robert Lehman Foundation. The production is also supported in part by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.