Muskegon Museum of Art Showcases Exceptional Modern & Contemporary Art by African American Artists
Charles Henry Alston, Untitled:Couple, c. 1945-50
Common Ground at the Muskegon Museum, features art from three regional collections, chronicling the history of African American art from the 17th century through today. Its divided into five categories arranged thematically, with an emphasis on the past fifty years.
Aminah Robinson, Timelessness of Life: Pages in History, 1982.
Representatives of early modernism include Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, Jacob Lawrence, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, to name a few. There are also plenty of contemporary selections, and anyone who attended 30 Americans at the Detroit Institute of Arts, will recognize many overlapping artists. Some of my favorite works include those by Mickalene Thomas, a mixed media drawing by Aminah Robinson, a diptych by Charles McGee, Renée Stout‘s, self-portrait as Marie Laveau, and Chakaia Booker‘s assemblage India Blue (2001) made from cut tires.
Charles McGee, Celebration (Noah’s Arc Series 1 & 2)
When assembling a show of such scope from three collections, omissions are inevitable. HACK contributor Will Juntunen for example, was perplexed that Detroit artist Gilda Snowden was not included. Noticeably absent are any contributions by Nick Cave or Julie Mehretu, both of whom have connections to Michigan.
There are many excellent paintings, but time-based works are absent, and examples of fiber art are perhaps too scarce. Unfortunately, quilt artists Faith Ringgold and Mary Lee Bendolph are represented with silkscreen and aquatint prints respectively. Several additional artists are represented by limited edition works, some of which give little sense of the individual’s work. Admirers of Kehinde Wiley may be disappointed that the only inclusion is a very small cast marble bust, St. Francis of Adelaide (2006).
Mickalene Thomas, You’re Gonna Give Me the Love I Need, 2010
This is not to disparage printmaking, or even limited edition miscellany. Many established artists collaborate with fine printmaking studios like Gemini Press, or Pace Prints. Furthermore, some artists do not create work that is easily displayed, so editioned examples are options for institutions with restrictions of space or resources. Fred Wilson and Kara Walker are often classified as installation artists, but Walker’s substantial linocut, Keys to the Coop (1997) is an apt translation of her signature silhouette forms, and Wilson’s C-print Untitled (Venice Biennale) (2003) is ideologically consistent with his oeuvre in general, and his project for the 2003 Biennale specifically.
Common Ground is informative and admirable in its range. The exhibit is open through March 20.
Common Ground: African American Art from the Flint Institute of Arts, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the Muskegon Museum of Art
Muskegon Museum of Art is located at 296 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon, Michigan 49440
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