Celebrated Exhibition from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at Nashville’s Frist Center May 26 through September 10, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 23, 2017)—State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, a momentous survey of art from across the United States, will be on view at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from May 26 through September 10, 2017. The project, organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, provides a vivid snapshot of contemporary work from diverse studios and creative communities today. It is the culmination of an ambitious year-long process in which Crystal Bridges’ curatorial team logged more than 100,000 miles, crisscrossing the country to visit nearly a thousand artists in rural communities, small towns, and urban centers.

From the original exhibition presented in 2014 at Crystal Bridges, the Frist Center will present works by forty-five of the artists, grouped thematically to demonstrate connections between artists and ideas across the country. The exhibition curators considered factors of quality and originality in selecting artworks, and included artists with an impressive diversity of worldviews, styles, and mediums. They sought out compelling works from under-recognized artists and locales that are also accessible to broad audiences. “The exhibition is particularly rich in art that responds to place, conveys personal and familial experience, and communicates the artists’ concerns with issues of the environment, the economy, gender, race, and identity,” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala.

Racial tension, economic inequity, and the urban-rural political split are common themes found in the exhibition. Shaker (2013), a sculpture by Bob Trotman of Casar, North Carolina, suggests a corrupt system from which one cannot escape. Houston artist Vincent Valdez’s painting The Strangest Fruit (2013) reminds viewers that cycles of racial violence recur even today. Ialu (2011), a stunning kinetic sculpture by Knoxville sculptor John Douglas Powers, examines humanity’s sometimes fraught relationship with nature.

Family and community have long been thought of as central to American identity, even as they have undergone dramatic changes in the twenty-first century. Pittsburgh artist Vanessa German addresses childhood vulnerability by creating what she calls “power dolls”—mixed-media sculptures that echo West African ritualistic figures meant for magical protection and spiritual guidance.

Video art is particularly well represented in State of the Art. Among the most spiritually transporting is Kora (2012), which documents a journey to Mount Kailash in Tibet by Jawshing Arthur Liou, a Taiwan-born artist now based in Bloomington, Indiana, who sought solace after the death of his daughter.

“No single exhibition can provide a true sense of a nation’s art—the aesthetic variety is too vast for any cohesive context to emerge,” says Scala. “Yet State of the Art begins the process of mining the abundant creativity that exists across the United States. As a national selfie, it is impressionistic and incomplete, but endlessly open to and brimming with possibility.”

State of the Art opened to remarkable national attention, including a feature on CBS Sunday Morning, placing the exhibition at the forefront of an ongoing discussion about art in America. Accolades include a 2015 Excellence in Exhibition Award from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

The story of how the exhibition came together is also told in this short video.

Exhibition Credit

This exhibition was organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Public Programs

Friday, June 30
Frist Friday Concert: The Long Players on the Turner Courtyard and Artists Vanessa German, John Powers, and Vadis Turner in the Galleries
6:00–9:00 p.m.

Frist Center
Not-yet-members $12 each; members free
All ages; rain or shine

Join us for extraordinary music and art, with food specials and a cash bar. Outside, enjoy The Long Players’ front-to-back renditions of a classic album. Inside, artists Vanessa German (State of the Art), John Powers (State of the Art), and Vadis Turner (Tempest) will lead activities in the galleries, including an interactive spoken-word performance by German, a soundscape experience created by Powers, and an “Artist’s Eye” tour of works on view at the Frist Center curated by Turner.

Thursday, July 13
Curator’s Tour: State of the Art Presented by Mark Scala, chief curator

Admission required; members free
Meet at the exhibition entrance

State of the Art celebrates the quality and diversity of contemporary art created throughout the United States, both in major art centers and smaller cities and communities across the country. Join Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala as he guides you through this collection of artists working in mediums ranging from paint and canvas to video.

Tuesdays, August 15, 22, 29
Art History Class: Contemporary Matters Presented by Mark Scala, chief curator
6:00–7:30 p.m.

Frist Center Rechter Room
$30 members/$40 non-members (for all three classes)
Advance registration required
Questions? Call 615.744.3355.

The millions of artworks made each year form an increasingly complex tapestry of ideas and techniques, new uses of technology, and reflections on a wide range of personal and societal concerns. How does one negotiate this dizzying multiplicity to determine artistic value and significance? In this three-part class, participants will be introduced to works that reflect contemporary life with originality, power, and beauty. Experience the challenges of connoisseurship—that is, making informed judgments about quality—while exploring some of the most significant trends among artists today.

Sponsor Acknowledgment

Platinum Sponsor: HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA/TriStar Health

Hospitality Sponsor: Union Station Hotel

This exhibition is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”

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About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at fristcenter.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit fristcenter.org.

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