The following artists address race in a variety of ways through their work -- some spark a dialogue in relation to the artistic cannon, others with gender roles, and some not explicitly at all. An exhibition entitled "30 Americans" features 70 works by 30 of the most iconic African American artists of the last 30 years, spanning a vast array of themes, media, perspectives and aesthetics.
Kehinde Wiley revamps the tradition of classical portraiture, retroactively injecting black subjects into the art historical tradition, while Mickalene Thomas addresses understandings of womanhood, identity and desire with her bedazzled interior portraits. Kara Walker's black silhouettes revisit the traumas of slavery while Nick Cave's ornament-happy soundsuits intensify African ceremonial costumes.
"As the show evolved, we decided to call it 30 Americans. 'Americans,' rather than 'African Americans' or 'Black Americans,' because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all," Don and Mera Rubell explain in a Museum statement. "And the number 30 because we acknowledge…that this show does not include everyone who could be in it."
The following 13 artists are of the most important today, each simultaneously shaping contemporary art and our understandings of racial identity.
1. Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon. America, 2008. Neon sign and paint, Ed. AP, 24 x 168 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
2. Iona Rozeal Brown
Iona Rozeal Brown. Sacrifice #2: it has to last (after Yoshitoshi’s “Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era”), 2007. Enamel, acrylic, and paper on wooden panel, 52 x 38 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
3. Barkley L. Hendricks
Barkley L. Hendricks. Noir, 1978. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 48 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
4. Rashid Johnson
Rashid Johnson. The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008.Lambda print, Ed. 2/5, 69 x 55 1/2 in.Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
5. Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas. Baby I Am Ready Now, 2007. Acrylic, rhinestone and enamel on wooden panel, diptych, 72 x 132 in. overall. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin, New York. © Mickalene Thomas
6. Nick Cave
Nick Cave. Soundsuit, 2008. Fabric, fiberglass, and metal, 102 x 36 x 28 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Photograph by James Prinz. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
7. Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas. Branded Head, 2003. Digital C-print, AP, 99x 52 in.Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
8. Kara Walker
Kara Walker. Camptown Ladies, 1998. Paper and adhesive on wall, 97 1/2 x 666 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
9. Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley. Equestrian Portrait of the Count Duke Olivares, 2005. Oil on canvas, 108 x 108 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. © Kehinde Wiley. Used by permission
10. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat. Bird On Money, 1981. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 66 x 90 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
11. Kerry James Marshall
Kerry James Marshall. Untitled, 1998–99. Eight-color unique woodcut, Ed. 1/4, twelve panels, 98 1/2 x 608 1/2 in. overall. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
12. Shinique Smith
Shinique Smith. a bull, a rose, a tempest, 2007. Fabric and found objects, dimensions variable. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
13. Xaviera Simmons
Xaviera Simmons. One Day and Back Then (Standing), 2007. Color photograph, Ed. 2/5, 30 x 40 in. Rubell Family Collection, Miami