30 Americans
2/2/2019 - 5/5/2019

An exhibition from the Rubell Family Collection.

30 Americans features work created over the past three decades by nationally and internationally recognized artists of color. Through painting, photography, works on paper, sculpture, installation, and video, 30 Americans explores a broad range of sociopolitical issues, including the construction of racial, gender, and sexual identity; ongoing narratives of racial inequality in the United States; poverty; racial stereotyping; and the power of protest. The exhibition includes more than sixty objects from the Miami-based Rubell Family Collection (RFC). Founded in New York City in 1964 by Mera and Don Rubell, the RFC is one the world's largest privately-owned yet publicly-accessible collections of contemporary art.

What's pictured: Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977, Los Angeles, CA), Sleep, 2008, oil on canvas, 132 x 300 in., Courtesy of the Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Photo by Chi Lam.

Many of the artists in this exhibition interrogate how black bodies are represented, politicized, and contested, both today and historically. Mickalene Thomas's rhinestone-studded portraits of black women consider notions of beauty, while Glenn Ligon's text-based paintings expose the complex nature of racial identity, and Hank Willis Thomas's edited advertisements explore how popular culture and mass media reinforce generalizations about race and gender. Carrie Mae Weems's series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, 1995, confronts the painful history of slavery. Adding text to appropriated nineteenth-century portrait photographs, Weems "gives a voice" to black subjects long silenced by prejudice. Kara Walker's fifty-five foot-long tableaux of silhouetted figures candidly investigates the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and violence, while Gary Simmons's Duck, Duck, Noose, 1992, is a jarring reminder of the terror of racial oppression during the Civil Rights era, a reality that continues to resonate sharply today. Although the checklist for 30 Americans emphasizes work made after 2000, it also includes important historical paintings and drawings by Robert Colescott that mine the history of racial stereotyping and blackface; a superb example of Jean-Michel Basquiat's frenetic, symbol-laden paintings; and semi-autobiographical work by the self-taught artist Purvis Young.

30 Americans offers a challenging — and at times disconcerting — account of race in the United States, and how our shared history continues to shape the ways we interact and engage with our fellow citizens today.

Joslyn Art Museum is committed to broadening the presence of underrepresented voices in its galleries and making sure that everyone in the community feels welcome and included. An exhibition like 30 Americans is overdue at Joslyn, and just one step in the right direction. We look forward to experiencing the exhibition, and its related programs, with you.

Artists in the Exhibition


Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago, IL); John Bankston (b. 1963, Benton Harbor, Ml); Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. 1960, Brooklyn, NY; d. 1988, New York, NY); Mark Bradford (b. 1961, Los Angeles, CA); Nick Cave (b. 1959, Jefferson City, MO); Robert Colescott (b. 1925, Oakland, CA; d. 2009, Tucson, AZ); Noah Davis (b. 1983, Seattle, WA; d. 2015, Los Angeles, CA); Leonardo Drew (b. 1961, Tallahassee, FL); Renée Green (b. 1959, Cleveland, OH); David Hammons (b. 1943, Springfield, IL); Barkley L. Hendricks (b. 1945, Philadelphia, PA; d. 2017, New London, CT); Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago, IL); Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, Bronx, NY); Kalup Linzy (b. 1977, Stuckey, FL); Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955, Birmingham, AL); Rodney McMillian (b. 1969, Columbia, SC); Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya); Pope.L (b. 1955, Newark, NJ); Rozeal (b. 1966, Washington, D.C.); Gary Simmons (b. 1964, New York, NY); Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974, New York, NY); Lorna Simpson (b. 1960, Brooklyn, NY); Shinique Smith (b. 1971, Baltimore, MD); Henry Taylor (b. 1958, Oxnard, CA); Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, Plainfield, NJ); Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, NJ); Kara Walker (b. 1969, Stockton, CA); Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953, Portland, OR); Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977, Los Angeles, CA); Purvis Young (b. 1943, Miami, FL; d. 2010, Miami, FL).

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