30 Americans showcases works by many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades. This provocative exhibition focuses on issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture while exploring the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations.
“This exhibition presents a sweeping survey of artwork by many of the most influential African-American artists of the last four decades,” said Arkansas Arts Center executive director Todd Herman. “For years, I’ve searched for an exhibition of this kind but couldn’t quite find what I was looking for – an exhibition with powerful interpretations of cultural identity and artistic legacy. When I came across 30 Americans, I knew this was exactly what I wanted patrons and visitors of the Arts Center to experience. These themes are universal in nature and speak to the larger human experience.”
30 Americans features work by such early and influential artists as Barkley L. Hendricks, Robert Colescott and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and those of younger and emerging artists, such as Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu and Shinique Smith. Often provocative and challenging, 30 Americans explores what it means to be a contemporary artist through an African-American point of view – whether addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics or history.
Drawn from the collection of Mera and Don Rubell, 30 Americans contains 41 works in a variety of media – paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, digital videos and photographs – by 30 of the leading contemporary African American artists. The Rubells began acquiring contemporary art in the late 1960s, often forging close friendships with living artists, particularly young artists.
The Rubells collected both backwards and forward, out of which emerged a pattern of intergenerational influence. Consequently, the works that comprise the exhibition afford viewers the opportunity to observe a stylistic dialogue among artists working throughout the past four decades. Now in collaboration with their two grown children, the Rubells continue to assemble one of the largest private collections of contemporary art in the world, which they currently house in a 45,000 square foot former DEA warehouse-turned-museum in Miami, Florida.