Exhibition Opens Oct. 11, 2013 in the Frist Center’s Ingram Gallery

NASHVILLE, TENN. (August 13, 2012)—The Frist Center for the Visual Arts will present 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 will be on view in the Center’s Ingram Gallery from Oct. 11, 2013 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, Glen Ligon and Carrie Mae Weems alongside younger ascending artists such as Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and Hank Willis Thomas.

“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,” explains Frist Center Curator Kathryn Delmez.

“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 exhibition last fall,” says 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.”

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,” says Ms. Delmez, “acknowledges that nationality is a statement of fact while racial identity is a highly malleable entity that can be strategically manipulated.”

According to Ms. 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.

For instance, Glen Ligon (b. 1960) draws heavily on the language of others in both his paintings and neon sign installations to call attention to nuanced aspects of African American history and the contemporary American cultural landscape. His work Negro Sunshine pulls phrasing from Gertrude Stein’s 1909 book “Three Lives,” which reads, “Rose laughed when she was happy but she had not the abandoned laughter that makes the warm broad glow of negro sunshine.” Ms. Delmez explains that, “By taking the words out of their enigmatic original context and re-presenting them in his own way —the use of neon light being somewhat ironic in this case—, Ligon underscores the absurdity of a cultural stereotype and perhaps even imbues the phrase with a little levity through this act of reclamation.”

Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) likewise subverts African American cultural stereotypes by appropriating historical imagery typically associated with portrayals of wealthy, powerful white men. His works often allude to Old Master paintings, such as Equestrian Portrait of the Count Duke Olivares which owes its composition to a painting of the same name by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660). “By placing subjects from the streets of Harlem, Brooklyn and other urban locales into classical poses and settings, Wiley inserts urban culture within art-historical conventions to make a provocative statement about history and society,” Ms. Delmez says.

Inspired by the social awareness and feminist liberation of the 1970s, Mickalene Thomas’s (b. 1971) glitzy and confident paintings of contemporary African American female subjects redefine the role of women in today’s society. “Thomas’s subjects, such as the woman featured in Baby I Am Ready Now, are empowered, emotive and fearless,” explains Ms. Delmez. “She positions sensuality and seductiveness as positive attributes, tools of strength and power.”

Conversely, artist Nick Cave (b. 1959) obliterates markers of gender or racial identity through his “soundsuits,” elaborate costumes composed of a wide variety of found or commonplace objects that may be both exhibited and performed. “Among Cave’s influences are African masquerades, in which the performer’s individual identity is taken over by the costume he or she wears,” notes Ms. Delmez. “In the context of the artist’s soundsuits, familiar discarded and repurposed objects come to life and offer a departure from our everyday environment; they suggest a time and place where race and gender don’t really matter—where people are just people.”

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
Purvis Young

About the Rubell Family Collection
The Rubell Family Collection was established in 1964 in New York City, shortly after its founders Donald and Mera Rubell were married. It is now one of the world’s largest, privately owned contemporary art collections. The collection is constantly expanding and features such well-known artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. In addition to displaying internationally established artists, the RFC actively acquires, exhibits and champions emerging artists working at the forefront of contemporary art.

Exhibition Credit
30 Americans is organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Exhibition Sponsors
Platinum Sponsor: The HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA and the TriStar Family of Hospitals

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Exhibition Catalogue
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies 30 Americans. Published by the Rubell Family Collection, the book includes essays by Robert Hobbs, Glenn Ligon, Franklin Sirmans and Michelle Wallace.

Related Public Programs

Thursday, October 10
Community Preview: 30 Americans and Ana Maria Tavares: Deviating Utopias
Noon–9:00 p.m.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts
RSVP by Monday, September 30, 2013, by calling 615.744.3987 or ”

Celebrate the opening of two new exhibitions during our Community Preview. Music provided throughout the day by the National Museum of African American Music. This event is free and open to the public. Discounted parking is available in the Frist Center lots with validated ticket. Space is limited. Join us!

Thursday, October 10
Collectors’ Perspective: 30 Americans and the Rubell Family Collection Presented by Don and Mera Rubell, art collectors, and Juan Valadez, director of the Rubell Family Collection
6:30 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Free; seating is first come, first seated

The exhibition 30 Americans is a wide-ranging survey of work by some of the most important African American artists of the last three decades. The works were selected from the Rubell Family Collection, which brings together seminal figures such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hammons with younger and emerging artists such as Kehinde Wiley and Shinique Smith. Be part of our community preview, as Don and Mera Rubell, along with their collection director, Juan Valadez, discuss the formation and growth of their important collection.

Sunday, October 20
Artful Tales: “Eagle Turk”
2:00–3:00 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium and Studios

Artful Tales is a FREE family program geared toward everyone ages three and up! Listen and play along as an art-related story comes to life. Then head upstairs to the art studio and make an artwork that relates to the story.

Explore a tale of sabotage and self-discovery. After years of being apart from their flock and living with false identities, the winged characters in this story must decide: Are they meant to live on the ground, content with crumbs? Or are they meant to soar? Next, create a painted collage that celebrates you. This program connects to the exhibition 30 Americans.

Thursday, October 24
Artist’s Perspective: 30 Americans
Presented by Hank Willis Thomas
6:30 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
Seating is first come, first seated

By employing the language of popular culture and advertising in his work, photo-conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas explicitly addresses race, class, and history in a way that is accessible and easy to decode. His intention is to use the familiar to draw connections and provoke conversations about issues and histories that are often forgotten, or avoided in our commerce-infused daily lives. In this lecture, the 30 Americans artist explores how the visual culture of the past affects and intersects with our current world-view.

Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received his BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and his MFA in photography, along with an MA in visual criticism, from California College of the Arts, San Francisco. He has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has received fellowships from the Tribeca Film Institute, W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University, and Columbia College, Chicago. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.

Thursday, October 31
Curator’s Tour: 30 Americans
Presented by Katie Delmez, curator

12:00 p.m.
Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required; members free

Join Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez on this tour that explores the themes of race, identity, and contemporary culture found in the 30 Americans exhibition.

Friday, November 8*
ARTini: 30 Americans
7:00 p.m.

Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required; members free

Are you curious about art? Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.

Shaun Giles, educator for community engagement at the Frist Center, leads a conversation about several works in the exhibition and how those works address the themes of identity and community.

*This event will also be offered on Tuesday, November 12 at noon.

Thursday, November 14 OR
Saturday, November 16
Educator Workshop: “‘What does it mean to be an American?’
The Art of 30 Americans and Norman Rockwell”

9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Frist Center Studios

$20 for Frist Center members/$25 for non-members. Cost includes all materials, teacher resources, color reproductions, gallery admission, parking validation in Frist Center lots, and lunch.

Advanced registration is required. Download the teacher workshop registration form at http://fristcenter.org/learn/schools-educators/educator-workshops.

Investigate varied perspectives on American identity presented in the exhibitions 30 Americans and American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. Participants confront the themes of 30 Americans, which focuses on issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture, while exploring the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations. In addition, participants learn about the emotionally appealing, idealized scenes of early twentieth-century American life by Norman Rockwell. Teachers can explore the themes of identity, power, and society through the lenses of these two exhibitions and examine ways to shape a discussion around the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” Frist Center educator workshops are open to educators of all subjects, pre-K–12.

Friday, November 15
Film: Basquiat
7:00 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
Seating is first come, first seated

Basquiat explores the meteoric rise and fall of youthful artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Starting out as a street artist, living in Thompkins Square Park in a cardboard box, Jean-Michel is “discovered” by Andy Warhol’s art world and becomes a star. But success has a high price, and Basquiat pays with friendship, love, and eventually, his life. Stars Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Jeffrey Wright, and David Bowie. Written by Martin Lewison. Directed by Julian Schnabel, 1996. 107 minutes. DVD. Rated R.

Works by Basquiat are presented in the Ingram Gallery as part of the 30 Americans exhibition on view from October 11, 2013, through January 12, 2014.

Friday, November 22
Artist’s Perspective: 30 Americans Presented by Nina Chanel Abney
6:30 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
Seating is first come, first seated

In the “Art” issue of W Magazine in 2008, a then 26-year-old Nina Chanel Abney explained to writer Haven Thompson how celebrity scandals inspire some of her vibrant, often brazen paintings that at once suggest Alice Neel, Stuart Davis, and Diego Rivera. There lies hidden in Nina Chanel Abney’s visual assault on the viewer references to politics, social issues, and unfulfilled desires. Contemporary music is influential to her work. The frenetic space that she creates becomes emblematic of the way we may digest information from the media. In this engaging lecture, she shares her inspirations, process, and evolution.

Nina Chanel Abney received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill. and her Master of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design, New York City. The youngest artist included in 30 Americans, she has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and is included in numerous collections in addition to the Rubell Family Collection, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., the Girls’ Club Collection and the Burger Collection. Abney is represented by Kravets/Wheby Gallery in New York City.


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