This is America*
This is America* is an exhibition originally planned to coincide with the 2020 presidential election, looking at aspects of history, citizenry, race, dignity, power, and struggle. In recent months, our country has been shaken by a global pandemic and waves of social unrest centered around issues of social justice and policing practices. Additional works have been added to reflect these conditions, and the exhibition is being dedicated to Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman who died on July 17, 2020.
America is a concept as much as a place. It is a promise written by founding fathers who were slave owners. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We hold these truths to be self-evident, but we've got some explaining to do. We have white picket fences and internment camps. America is exceptional, except when it isn't. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, baseball, and apple pie. No justice, no peace. America is ritual and risk, haves and have nots, wide open spaces and too big to fail. From George Washington to George Floyd. Another day, another dollar. E pluribus unum and Don't tread on me. Leave the gun, take the cannoli. Why can't we all just get along?
In "Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation", an op-ed published in The New York Times on the day of his funeral, Lewis wrote, "Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself."
Putting oneself on the line by marching, speaking out, and educating others are ways that democracy is realized. Lewis continues, "Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key."
Art is another form of good trouble. This exhibition has been organized in that spirit, with the hope that the Museum can play a role as a safe space for the discussion of difficult topics and uncertain outcomes. Selections from our permanent collection, as well as art gathered from various studios, galleries, and private collections come together to create a dense environment that challenges the viewer to sort out their knowledge of, and feelings about, living in America at this volatile time.
Artists include Paul Stephen Benjamin, Louis Zoellar Bickett, Amber Boardman, Daniel Bozhkov, Mel Chin, Elliott Erwitt, Wendy Ewald, Robert Feintuch, Leon Golub, Mike Goodlett, Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi, Keith Haring, Jon Henry, Carolyn Hisel, Mike Howard, Lester Johnson, Reuben Kadish, Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Wayne Koestenbaum, Barbara Kruger, John Lackey, Donald Lipski, Frank Weathers Long, Gina Magid, Gordon Parks, Joseph Peragine, Alix Pearlstein and Suzanne McClelland, Kay Rosen, Wendy Bolton Rowland, Tad Savinar, Mira Schor, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Bonita Skaggs-Parsons, Aaron Skolnick, Gilbert Stuart, Sheldon Tapley, Tony Tasset, Frank X Walker, William Walmsley, Andy Warhol, Paul Weller, John Wesley, David Wischer, Jessica Wohl, and Michael Wong.
Image: Wendy Ewald, Talk, from the series African American Alphabet, 2000, gelatin silver print. Collection of the UK Art Museum, purchase: The Robert C. May Photography Fund.
This playlist was created as part of the This is America* exhibition at the UK Art Museum (Oct 6, 2020 – Feb 13, 2021). Like the diverse artworks on view, the historical and contemporary music included here reflects a range of voices and points of view about our country. Thanks to the Museum staff, student workers, and interns who recommended songs.
Playlist Cover Art: BARBARA KRUGER, Untitled (Heard) from We Will No Longer Be Seen And Not Heard portfolio, 1985, Photo-offset lithograph and serigraph with embossing on Arches 88 paper. Collection of the UK Art Museum, purchase: Art Museum Funds.
Tues. - Fri.: 10am to 5 pm
Sat.: 12pm to 5pm
Sundays, Mondays, and University Holidays: CLOSED
Multi-Voiced Labels, Accumulative
See the exhibition in a whole new light. Additional commentary, related reading and podcast lists, and image reactions are being collected from exhibiting artists, Museum staff, faculty, and invited guests to provide a variety of perspectives. View the art works below to learn more.