In Nashville, 30 American Artists

What’s the best way to understand the last three decades of contemporary African American art?

If you’re the Rubell family in Miami, you might first collect the art, then talk to the artists who created it.

“They’ve been collecting since the 1950s,” says Katie Delmez, curator at the Frist Center in Nashville. “As they were getting to know some of the younger artists, they heard the same names of artists that they admired.”

And as it turned out, the older artists’ work was already in their collection. So they combined them for a traveling exhibition.

“They put the older art in with the newer,” she says. “It’s about how one generation influences a younger one.”

The exhibit, called 30 Americans, features the work of respected artists like Hank Willis Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rozeal Brown, Kara Walker and Nick Cave.

“It allows us to see how artists of multiple generations are expressing some similar elements and themes,” she says. “It’s an exploration history, pop culture, race and sexuality on an individual identity.”

Despite the title, 31 artists are represented, with approximately 70 pieces on display in the show. All but two of the artists are still living.

“Many are now working in New York, although they were born anywhere from Portland to Miami to the Midwest,” she says.  “As curator, I chose to focus on the individual artists and where they were born.”

30 Americans has already traveled to Miami, Raleigh, Norfolk, Washington D.C., and Milwaukee. It’ll open in Nashville on Oct. 11 and run through Jan. 12.

“These are leading artists and it’s great to have them in one place, for a greater awareness of the African American experience,” she says.

And that the Rubells would share their work.

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