The Columbia Museum of Art’s newest exhibit, “30 Americans,” features Black artists from the last four decades and their American experiences.
Each artist in the exhibit uses their medium to give a unique and personal perspective of their life. The work within the exhibit ranges from paintings and sculptures, to found-object work and even costume suits.
These costume suits are life-sized suits made of fabric, sequins, fiberglass and metal, known in the exhibition as Nick Cave’s "Soundsuits." Another featured artist at the exhibition, Rodney McMillian, submitted a carpet from the '70s which serves as a symbolic documentation of his life.
“I love it. I just think it's beautiful. Isn’t it like looking at the night sky?” museum curator Catherine Walworth said when speaking about the carpet.
According to a news release by the museum, these artists "delve into triumph, tragedy, pride, prejudice and wit in a provocative exhibition united by one nation and distinguished by 30 experiences."
Every artist in the series had a vastly different experience in life which is shown that through their art, regardless of media. All of their experiences teach the audience and tell a universal story and idea.
The 56 pieces work as a whole to provide an intersectional perspective on age, gender, sexuality and class.
"30 Americans" is a traveling exhibit which first started at the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida. The showcase first began traveling the country in 2011, but this installation is the first time it has been on display in South Carolina. It will be here until January 2022.
Each time the exhibit goes on display, the featured art is selectively chosen. The show hosts collect the art from artists, and then the museums choose which art they display and how they display it. In Columbia, the show went through multiple iterations before the museum settled on the version that's on display. Because of its curation, no two displays of this exhibit are the same, even if it returns to the same museum twice.
The labels for almost every piece include the artists' views on the piece and what the artist means.
The featured artists include Kerry James Marshall, John Bankston, Xaviera Simmons and Kehinde Wiley (known for his portrait of President Obama) to name a few.
Milena Engh, associate director of communications and visitor experience at the museum, said the work by Mickalene Thomas speaks to her in an indescribable way, because of "the '70s vibe and how textural it is."
The piece she referenced was one of a Black woman in green and white clothing sitting on a flower-print couch with multiple colorful pillows and rhinestones.
Another standout piece, and a primary visual for the exhibition, is "Equestrian Portrait of the Count Duke Olivares" by Kehinde Wiley. It was painted in 2005, and features a Black man with a red “Negro Leagues” hoodie, riding a white horse with a gold saddle and other trinkets. The painting is 9-by-9 feet and has its own wall in one of the galleries.
The Columbia Museum of Art is showing this exhibition until Jan. 17, 2022. The museum does not charge college students for entry into this exhibit, with proof of a student ID.