30 Americans exhibition of African American art opens at Frist Center

 Mickalene Thomas. Baby I Am Ready Now, 2007. Acrylic, rhinestone and enamel on wooden panel, diptych, 72 x 132 in. overall. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin, New York. © Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas. Baby I Am Ready Now, 2007. Acrylic, rhinestone and enamel on wooden panel, diptych, 72 x 132 in. overall. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin, New York. © Mickalene Thomas

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents 30 Americans, an exhibition surveying works by many of the nation’s leading African American artists working since the mid-1970s. Often provocative and challenging, the exhibition explores how artists relate their own sense of self to ideas within history, popular culture and contemporary mass media central to American society. 30 Americans opens in the Center’s Ingram Gallery on Friday, Oct. 11, and runs through Jan. 12, 2014.

Organized and drawn from the acclaimed Rubell Family Collection in Miami, 30 Americans includes more than 75 works by 31 emerging and established African American artists working within a variety of mediums, from painting and sculpture to photography and video. The exhibition offers a dynamic and thought-provoking intergenerational dialogue by presenting well-known and influential figures such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Glenn Ligon and Carrie Mae Weems, alongside younger ascending artists such as Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and Hank Willis Thomas.

“We are delighted to bring this superb selection from the Rubell collection to Nashville, especially in the wake of our critically acclaimed Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video exhibition last fall,” said Dr. Susan H. Edwards, executive director of the Frist Center. “30 Americans provides a comprehensive portrait of contemporary African American art, offering a rare opportunity to put Weems (with whom our visitors have now become familiar) in context with her peers and successors.”

“While developing their collection, the Rubell family received first-hand accounts from younger artists about the importance of influential, older counterparts, many of whom were already represented in their collection,” said Frist Center Cura-
tor Kathryn Delmez.

Organized thematically, the exhibition explores diverse topics like history, popular culture, community, urban life, and the body, in addition to race. “The title of the show, 30 Americans,” said Delmez, “acknowledges that nationality is a statement of fact while racial identity is a highly malleable entity that can be strategically manipulated.”

According to Delmez, as key figures in the broader contemporary art community, the artists of 30 Americans have contributed to many of its major developments over the last four decades. They express themselves through a variety of techniques, from the use of language as a powerful and direct mode of communication, to the use of found or unusual materials to convey a particular statement to the use of their own (often transformed) body.

30 Americans features works by artists Nina Chanel Abney, John Bankston, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Iona Rozeal Brown, Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, Noah Davis, Leonardo Drew, Renée Green, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Rashid Johnson, Glenn Ligon Kalup, Linzy Kerry, James Marshall, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, William Pope, L. Gary Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Shinique Smith, Jeff Sonhouse, Henry Taylor, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, and Purvis Young. The Rubell Family Collection was established in 1964 in New York City, and is now one of the world’s largest, privately owned contemporary art collections.