30 Americans, 2017
Nationally celebrated as one of the most important exhibitions of contemporary art in the United States within the last decade, 30 Americans showcases an influential group of prominent African American artists who have emerged as leading contributors to the contemporary art scene in the US and beyond. The exhibition and accompanying catalog explores the evolving roles of black subjects in art since the 1970s and highlights some of the most pressing social and political issues facing our country today, including ongoing narratives of racial inequality; the construction of racial, gender and sexual identity; and the pernicious underpinnings and effects of stereotyping.
Many of the artists in this exhibition interrogate how African Americans are represented, politicized and contested in the arts, media and popular culture. Several are driven by the exclusion of black subjects in art throughout much of history and celebrate and glorify black subjects through pictorial traditions including genre painting and portraiture.
In addition to essays by Robert Hobbs, Glenn Ligon, Franklin Sirmans and Michele Wallace, this expanded fourth edition contains new artworks and 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.
"Today, 30 Americans, the Rubell Family Collection's landmark show of works by African-American artists, opens at its seventeenth venue, The Barnes, in Philadelphia. We are proud to have distributed the exhibition catalog, now in its fourth, expanded edition, since its first printing in 2009, and we cannot recommend highly enough curator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw's recent essay on The 30 Americans Effect, which makes a compelling case for how this one, visionary traveling exhibition has changed museums today. Featured image, Sacrifice #2: It Has to Last (after Yoshitoshi's "Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era" (2007), is by Rozeal. "Along with looking at woodblock prints, I viewed photos of geisha napping, with their heads propped up by their own arms," she writes. "What I enjoyed about these images was how similar this method of sleeping was to the way black women can sleep after coming home from the beauty parlor. I have done so myself; having a fresh perm/relaxer in my hair, not wanting it to lose its 'bone straightness.'"