30 Americans: Xaviera Simmons

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: ExhibitionsLeave a Comment

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11 Days to 30 Americans 

(born 1974)

In addition to creating dazzling photographs and gripping sculptures, Xaviera Simmons also makes critically acclaimed installations. These often investigate music, particularly cherished LP artwork. In 2006 she created How to Break Your Own Heart, stapling classic jazz album covers on the walls of New York City’s Art in General gallery, where she frequently deejays. “I constructed this installation as a site of sensorial intervention in a heavily trafficked landscape,” she explained to the New York Foundation for the Arts. “My intentions were also to create a space that was immediately educational to the passerby, a space that engages as well as surprises.” Simmons reprised the concept the following year at Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum with the installation, Electric Relaxation: Digital Good Times, which included R&B and hip-hop album covers, along with archival video footage.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.


Xaviera Simmons

photo: Scott Sommerdorf, The Salt Lake Tribune

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30 Americans: Gary Simmons

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: ExhibitionsLeave a Comment

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12 Days to 30 Americans 

(born 1964)

Gary Simmons is best known for his eerie “erasure” drawings. He illustrates figures and iconic objects with white chalk and then smears them. This technique gives them a haunting, sometimes nightmarish allure as he addresses themes surrounding race, class, and personal history.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

To view Simmons’s work visit http://garysimmonsstudio.com/.


Gary Simmons

photo: Milwaukee Art Museum, http://mam.org/

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30 Americans: William Pope.L

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13 Days to 30 Americans

(born 1955)

William Pope.L addresses racism, classism, and other sociopolitical ills through provocative performance art, theater, painting, and photography. He is best known for his eRacism crawl series, which began in the late 1970s. In one such “crawl,” The Great American Way, he wore a Superman suit and strapped a skateboard onto his back and crawled twenty-two miles up New York City’s Broadway; it took five years to complete.

In 2005 Pope.L created an interactive installation that traveled from Maine to Missouri called The Black Factory. Participants were encouraged to bring any artifacts considered “black”—hair picks, James Brown LPs, etc.—and the performance troupe, called the Factory Workers, then simulated a “conversion” of the products.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.


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30 Americans: Wangechi Mutu

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14 Days to 30 Americans

(born 1972)

On CNN’s African Voices, Wangechi Mutu described some of her work as “feminist intervention.” Her riveting, multilayered collages of women sometimes take on fantastical, cyborg characteristics. Mutu admitted to being obsessed with female bodies, particularly with how they can be exploited for hard labor and then deemed worthless—without beauty and undeserving of respect.

To me the female figure is enchanting and power-filled, it astounds me, it baffles me. When I was nineteen I saw middle-aged women in Nairobi protesting their children’s detention at a notorious torture prison. They slowly put a curse out—by disrobing and exposing their bodies—causing the riot police to freak out and flee. I’m interested in how the female body is enhanced and contorted for historical and cultural purposes.
–Wangechi Mutu, interview by Kirsten Fricke, “Sex Sells,” Beautiful Decay, December 2005 issue.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

To view Mutu’s work visit http://wangechimutu.com/.


Wangechi Mutu

photo: http://saintheron.com/

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30 Americans: Kerry James Marshall

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15 Days to 30 Americans

(born 1955)

Kerry James Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Now living in Chicago, Marshall attributes his style and focus to the years he spent in L.A. during the Black Power and Civil Rights movements. When asked about his time in L.A., Marshall said he felt a sense of responsibility, which directed the nature of his later work.

A 1978 graduate of Otis College of Art and Design in L.A., Marshall started gaining notoriety for his paintings in the 1980s. The artist is best known for addressing themes of civil rights and African American culture through large-scale paintings and sculptures, but Marshall also looks to popular culture and African mythology for his work.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

Learn more about Marshall at http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/kerry-james-marshall.


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photo: www.art21.org

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30 Americans: Kalup Linzy

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16 Days to 30 Americans

(born 1977)

Classic daytime TV soap operas such as All My Children and The Days of Our Lives have fueled many of Kalup Linzy’s hilarious video vignettes. He lampoons the stilted acting performances and risible plots while subversively delivering pointed commentaries about race, class, and sexual identity. Perhaps part of the appeal of Linzy’s videos is the way he flips the casting script. Soap operas have long been popular in the African American community, but the actors are mostly white. Oftentimes, Linzy even provides the voiceovers for all of the characters and does the post-production editing, taking the absurdity of TV soap operas to an even more outlandish level. Last year, Linzy made his way as a performer on a bona fide soap opera classic, General Hospital.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

To view Linzy’s work visit http://www.kaluplinzystudio.com/.


Kalup Linzy

photo: Milwaukee Art Museum, http://mam.org/

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30 Americans: Glenn Ligon

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17 Days to 30 Americans

(born 1960)

Glenn Ligon employs the practice of intertextuality in his conceptual work. This term, coined by Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva in 1966, describes how the meaning of a text is not inherent, but rather malleable relative to the time, the context it is read, the knowledge of the reader, and other non-static factors. Ligon’s intertextual works invite interpretations around race, language, and sexual identity.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

Learn more about Ligon at http://www.art21.org/artists/glenn-ligon.


Glenn Ligon

photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

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30 Americans: Rashid Johnson

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: ExhibitionsLeave a Comment

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18 Days to 30 Americans 

(born 1977)

“Black science” is an ideal description for Rashid Johnson’s absorbing photography, sculptures, conceptual work, and video works, through which the artist investigates science fiction, divination, black American history, and hip-hop culture, as well as personal memories.

Learn more about the 30 Americans exhibition at http://arkansasartscenter.org/30-Americans.

Learn more about Johnson at http://www.art21.org/artists/rashid-johnson.


Rashid Johnson

photo: www.art21.org

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