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Chrysler Museum Opens Four-Month Exhibit of 31 Black Artists


The Chrysler Museum opens 30 Americans, on March 15, an exhibition of contemporary African-American art of the past three decades. The exhibition is one of the largest the Chrysler has hosted – filling gallery spaces upstairs and downstairs throughout the building. The exhibition continues to July 15, 2012. Admission is free.


Drawn from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, 30 Americans brings together 75 works by 31 emerging and established artists who work within a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation. While some works probe the notion of racial and social difference, others evoke universal concepts and emotions using a sophisticated blend of visual beauty, humor, and irony. 30 Americans brings together artists from different generations in unique and thought-provoking ways. Robert Colescott and Barkley Hendricks, for example, grew up during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and paved the way for David Hammons, Mickalene Thomas, and Jeff Sonhouse.


Hendricks’ powerful portrayals of African-American subjects merge the long-standing tradition of portraiture with a striking sense of urban realism. The dignity of his subjects carries over into Thomas’ glitzy and alluring portraits that speak to women’s roles in today’s world. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1981 graffiti-inspired portrait, Bird on Money, pays homage to the great jazz musician Charlie “Bird” Parker. Mark Bradford continues Basquiat’s street-culture aesthetic in his large-scale collages, in which bits of advertisements, scraps of billboards, and perm foils from his mother’s beauty parlor come together in a new way that evokes maps of the urban landscape. Several of the artists rework and manipulate history in interesting and thought-provoking ways. In his photographs, 34-year-old Rashid Johnson mines the past in search of his own self-identity, portraying himself as abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Kara Walker also looks to the antebellum period in her large-scale wall installation that blends historical fact and fantasy. Walker relies on Victorian silhouettes to comment on slavery, race relations and power structures.


“30 Americans is an exciting exhibition that brings world-class, cutting-edge art to the Hampton Roads community,” says Amy Brandt, Ph.D., the Chrysler’s McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “We see the potential to touch the lives of many people and to create interesting dialogues and discussions that will be remembered for years to come.” Chrysler’s Members invite the community to celebrate the exhibition at a free preview on the evening of March 15. Party details, as well as programming related to 30 Americans, are available at The Museum is located at 245 West Olney Road in Norfolk and is open Wednesdays, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Admission is free.

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