Detroit museum exhibition features African-American artists

AP News
Posted: Oct 16, 2015 9:47 AM

DETROIT (AP) — An exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts features African-American artists who rose to prominence in recent decades by exploring racial, gender, political and historical identity in contemporary culture.

"30 Americans" opens to the public Sunday and runs through Jan. 18. It includes 55 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and videos.

The traveling exhibition, showcasing works by artists including Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall and Lorna Simpson, is drawn from and organized by the private Rubell Family Collection in Miami. It will be the first time that works by some of the artists are shown in Detroit.

"As the show evolved, we decided to call it 30 Americans. 'Americans,' rather than 'African-Americans' or 'Black Americans,' because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all," Don and Mera Rubell said in a statement.

"And the number 30 because we acknowledge ... that this show does not include everyone who could be in it."

The exhibition is organized around artistic approaches used to explore identity, including defying Western art traditions; portraying black subjects as real people; adopting improvisational and expressionistic styles; and the use of symbols and images.

The show "powerfully demonstrates contemporary African-American artists' interests in the complexities of identity and developing a range of artistic approaches to portray or reference its distinctions and similarities," said Valerie J. Mercer, a curator at the institute and head of the museum's General Motors Center for African American Art.

According to the Rubell Family Collection, a version of the exhibition made its debut in 2008 at the museum in Miami before traveling since then. In Detroit, a film series, conference and other programs are planned, including storytelling, live music and dance.