Tufts University is deeply saddened to report the passing of Danielle Abrams, Professor of the Practice, School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Our thoughts are with her loved ones and friends.
Danielle Abrams performed for over 20 years as personae that emerge from her interracial family, and from a lexicon of figures in art history and popular culture. Some of her performances included Quadroon, in which she embodied her black Southern grandmother, and New York Jewish bubbie. In Routine, Abrams cleansed Catskills entertainment of its racist legacy through performing a comedy routine while bathing in a tub of borscht. In After Before the Revolution, she cast herself in Eleanor Antin's role as a black (and Jewish) ballerina, and reshuffled the tenets of western Modernism as a member of the Ballet Russes accompanied by the Black Panther party. In her latest performance, Nominee, Abrams envisions being interviewed by a panel of African-American artist-politicos, Jewish grandparents, and iconic representations of multiculturalism, including Adrian Piper, the Black Panthers, anonymous notables in the black contemporary art scene, and President Barack Obama. Her nomination launches the panel into a heated, frank, and irreverent discussion about politics, aesthetics, privilege, and interracial identity. Abrams' performances upend the limits of stereotype and representation. As each of her characters transfigure into new ones, prejudicial assumptions were traded in for complex dialogues. Her work blended scripted and improvised language, and public encounters that relied on engaged participation. She utilized performance in expansive fields that include film and video, spoken word, puppetry, installation, movement, and stand-up comedy.
Danielle Abrams performed and exhibited work at galleries, festivals, and museums including the ICA Boston, Detroit Institute of the Arts, Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Jewish Museum, NY, Queens Museum, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, the Queer Arts Festival, Labotanica at Project Row Houses, Grand Central Art Center, Roger Smith Hotel, WOW Performance Café, The Kitchen, Rush Arts Gallery, ABC No Rio, Dixon Place, Annie Sprinkle's and Beth Stephens' Green Wedding, Art Gallery of Windsor, and The Geborgen Kamers Gallery in the Netherlands. Abrams received support from The New York Foundation of the Arts, Urban Arts Initiative, and the Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund.
Abrams received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. She attended artists' residencies at the Yale School of Painting and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Her work had been awarded by New York Foundation of the Arts, the Franklin Furnace, and Urban Artists' Initiative. Abrams taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, the Stamps School of Art & Design at University of Michigan, the MFA Program in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College, and the City University of New York. She was the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation. She was a Faculty Fellow at the Tisch College of Civic Life, and a Visiting Scholar at the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans.
Artist Statement (dated April 2022):
Danielle Abrams' performances arise from the social currents that shape her mixed race and queer identity. She adopts personae that animate the dualistic relationships between racial and ethnic groups. Her work stages interactive encounters, and with plays, puppetry, and monologues, she re-imagines the narratives of art history, civil rights, and popular culture. She poses scenarios between African-American revolutionaries, political icons, Jewish ballerinas, Borscht Belt comedians, and her own black and Jewish family from Queens, NY. By rearranging time periods and juxtaposing clans, Abrams’ characters build a unique social vision that rewrites the scripts of the past.