ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Drawn from the acclaimed Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida, 30 Americans showcases works by some of the most significant artists of the last four decades, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley.
This groundbreaking exhibition tells the story of Black humanity through the gaze of contemporary Black artists. Dating from the 1970s to the 2000s, the extensive group of paintings, drawings, collages, photography, portraiture, sculptures, installations, and performance artwork addresses over 200 years of American history and considers the powerful influence of artistic legacy and community across generations. The exhibition invites us to confront the complexities of individual and collective self-making; explore the transformative paths of self-determination and self-healing; reclaim dignity and liberation of the Black body and Black sexuality; and reframe the past, present, and future of African-descended people through wonder and imagination.
Curated by scholars Dr. Dann J. Broyld, Nicole Stanton, and Dr. Brittney Yancy, the exhibition is a catalyst for community and conversation, and engages active collaboration with Museum staff and a 30 Americans Community Advisory Group comprised of local community members.
30 Americans at the NBMAA:
What does freedom mean? What does it mean to be Black + American? What is Blackness? are questions these 30 African American artists answer through reality, truth, imagination, and wonder. These questions are further explored by guest curators Dr. Dann J. Broyld, Nicole Stanton, and Dr. Brittney Yancy, and are interpreted through a series of unifying themes:
“Black Wonderment and Freedom Dreams: Adornment, Identity & Freedom”
The practice of wonderment and imagination is embedded in the African diasporic experience. The ancestral spirit of faith, resilience, and imagination is rooted in the African tradition and spans generations across the diaspora. African Americans continue to be spiritual visionaries and freedom dreamers who understand the complex condition, past and present, of African-descended people, while simultaneously imagining a world shaped by liberation, empowerment, and full personhood.
Black wonderment relies on a universal worldview that allows for self-definition, and 30 Americans elevates the tradition of adornment and materiality in the self-making process. Works including Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, Lorna Simpson’s Wig, Mickalene Thomas’s Whatever You Want, and David Hammond’s The Holy Bible, Old Testament, conjure a world where the tradition of fashion and adornment are central to African Americans’ pursuit of self-definition and freedom making.
“Making a Way Out of No Way: Radical Black Self-Making in Contemporary Art”
“Making a way out of no way” is a phrase that emerges out of Black communities to express the challenges of surviving and thriving, in the face of economic, aesthetic, cultural, social, and political oppressions experienced in the U.S. Black artists and scholars grapple with the question of: “how do we self-identify and move towards liberation and a state of wonder in the face of pervasive anti-black racism.” The works of Kehinde Wiley, Rashid Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, and Mickalene Thomas, in particular, grapple with these concerns.
“Signs and Wonders”
“Signs and Wonders” is a colloquialism or turn-of-phrase used in the African-American community to describe both spiritual and space-like acts that occur with enchantment. They captivate and awe us into amazement, enlightenment, and illumination. Make us look to the Gods, constellations, and spiritual realm for explanations. They dazzle us with delight and leave us dazed in stardust. They are acts of soul, culture, futurism, and art. They open us to the possibilities and coloration of liberation, self-determination, and the wide-world of signals, mirrors, and miracles. Mark Bradford, Jean-Michele Basquiat, and Glenn Ligon are just a few of the artists whose abstract compositions conjure these ideas.
About the Rubell Museum:
The Rubell collection was established in 1965 by Don and Mera Rubell. The Rubells’ passion for art and their attention to collecting works from a diverse group of artists resulted in one of the largest privately-owned contemporary art collections. The collection became accessible to the public in 1993, when the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Art Foundation was opened in Miami, Florida. In 2019, the Rubell Family Collection expanded to a larger building and was renamed the Rubell Museum to emphasize its mission to share the extensive collection of contemporary art with the public. The collection is always expanding and features works by many important contemporary artists, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, Keith Haring, Rashid Johnson, Hayv Kahraman, Jeff Koons, William Kentridge, Yoshitomo Nara, Cindy Sherman, and Mickalene Thomas. The vast range and depth of the collection has allowed the Rubell Museum to create 48 special exhibitions, including 30 Americans, drawn entirely from works in its collection.
Any missing registration links are forthcoming.
Thursday, June 16
Saturday, June 18
Click here to make a donation to help support this year's Juneteenth Celebration!
Wednesday, June 22, 1 p.m.
Thursday, June 23, 6 p.m.
Lecture by co-curator Brittney Yancy in conversation with Andre Rochester
This event was originally scheduled for June 30. It is now on Thursday, July 7, 6 p.m.
Thursday, June 30, 5:30-8 p.m.
Thursday, June 30, 6 p.m.
The catalog will be available in the Museum Store. Details forthcoming.
The accompanying exhibition catalog contains essays by Robert Hobbs, Glenn Ligon, Franklin Sirmans, and Michele Wallace, in addition to 22 commissioned writings by artists in the exhibition about artworks in the catalog, including pieces by Nina Chanel Abney, John Bankston, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, Noah Davis, Leonardo Drew, Renée Green, Barkley L. Hendricks, Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, William Pope.L, Rozeal Shinique Smith, Jeff Sonhouse, Henry Taylor, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley.
30 Americans is organized by the Rubell Museum.
Support for 30 Americans is provided by Irene and Charles J. Hamm, Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation and Logan Milliken, Peter Rogers, and the Bristle Cone Pine Foundation.
Support for the exhibition’s curatorial team is provided by Susan and John Rathgeber, Claudia I. Thesing and Linda Cheverton-Wick and Walter Wick.
30 Americans programming is made possible by Jay and Allison Bombara, Dona and Michael Cassella, Bradford Korder, Nancy Stuart, and Neal Freuden.