Final Week: DIA Show Can 'Amplify Conversations About Race Within Detroit'

January 10, 2016, 8:31 PM

Have you been meaning to see the Detroit Institute of Arts' "30 Americans" exhibition ever since it opened three months ago? Better get a move on -- it ends next Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The showcase of African American art "explores issues of racial, political, historical and gender identity in contemporary culture," says the museum, which displays more than 50 paintings, sculptures, installations, photos and video. The 30 artists represented include Kerry James Marshall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Carrie Mae Weems, Robert Colescott, Glenn Ligon and Lorna Simpson.

The exhibit includes this 2007 acrylic and enamel painting on wood by Thomas Mickalene, "Baby I Am Ready Now."

A new appreciation of the works is posted at Hyperallergic, an arts and culture site based in Brooklyn. Here's part of what Detroit writer Sarah Rose Sharp, a current Kresge Foundation literary arts fellow, says in her commentary:

By the standards of the surrounding Metro Detroit communities, the work shown in 30 Americans is controversial. . . . "30 Americans" is not pulling any punches, and in hosting this challenging assortment of works, the DIA is demonstrating a heretofore unseen level of willingness to bring these issues to light among the Detroit Metro populace. . . .

In terms of connecting with its immediate community, this may be the first time the DIA has featured a show wherein the racial demographics of the depicted subjects more or less accurately reflect the racial demographics of the city. Who you see on the walls sends a powerful message about who is welcome in the galleries, and "30 Americans" stands as a clear appeal on the part of the DIA to court its city population as a desired base of attendance. . . .

The intended audience of "30 Americans" [is] Detroiters who have never before set foot in the DIA. . . . Exhibitions like "30 Americans" could have the potential to amplify conversations about race within Detroit, while helping to demonstrate a meeting between its communities and one of its longstanding institutions.

-- Alan Stamm

Exhibition details and tickets

  • Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 18/  
  • Cost: $14 for adults ($10 for tricounty residents); $9 for ages 6-17 ($5 for local residents). Free Jan. 18.
  • Timed tickets: "Advance purchase is strongly recommended" here or by calling (313) 833-4005.

A museum visitor looks at a large, dramatic canvas in "30 Americans." (Photo by Detroit Institute of Arts)

Read more:  Hyperallergic

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