A broad survey of art from across the United States, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now was organized in 2014 by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition’s co-curators, Don Bacigalupi and Chad Alligood, strove to create a vivid overview of American art today. Crisscrossing the United States and visiting approximately a thousand artists, they considered factors of quality and originality, as well as what Bacigalupi called a “generosity of spirit”—an interest in developing a meaningful artistic conversation with the audience. The resulting 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. The Frist Art Museum presents a selection of works that were in the original exhibition, grouped thematically to demonstrate connections between artists and ideas across the country.

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. 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. The stories coming from cities, towns, and rural regions across America are our stories. They are compelling and deserve to be shared.

Non-flash photography is allowed in this exhibition.

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


John Douglas Powers
Studio in Knoxville, TN

Sculptor John Douglas Powers comes from a family of tinkerers in rural Tennessee. He grew up working on cars and farm equipment, and his stunning kinetic sculptural installation Ialu (2011) in State of the Art demonstrates his mechanical prowess. Steel reeds connect to wooden supports and are powered by an electric motor to sway back and forth like a field of tall grass. The rhythmic movement is set against a projection of mirrored clouds and the piece examines humanity’s sometimes fraught relationship with nature.