The Rubell Family Collection’s most recent exhibition, 30 Americans, offers an inter-generational survey of African American art collected over several decades by the Rubells. The show articulates a dialogue between multiple generations of African American artists and the influence one has on the next. For example the influence of Barkley L. Hendricks in the work of artists like Mickalene Thomas or Jeff Sonhouse. Or perhaps Basquiat in the work of Shinique Smith. The references, conscious or unconscious, reflect the dialogue of a particular niche of the art world that has created a place for itself based on the work of not only artists, but curators, writers, collectors and galleries/museums. Institutions like the Studio Museum in Harlem/Thelma Golden, as well as, individuals like Franklin Sirmans, Isolde Brielmaier and Trevor Schoonmaker, to name a few, have all contributed to the building of a “value” structure for African American artists based on standard art market requirements. A pedigreed list of education, residencies, critics, publications and collectors – like the Rubells. And, this work is based on the structural, institutional and critical work of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement.
(Rashid Johnson,The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008, Lambda print, Ed. 2/5, 69 x 55 1/2 in. (175.3 x 141 cm), framed Rubell Family Collection, Miami)
Careful to note their own physical, financial and intellectual limitations, the Rubell Family Collection’s exhibition statement acknowledges that there are artists that are not in their collection that could have easily been included in the exhibition. The exhibition statement also states that they chose the title “30 Americans” instead of “30 African 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.” Some of the artists not included, Wardell Milan, Deborah Grant, Titus Kaphar, William Cordova, are artists who are part of this niche dialogue to varying degrees or are immigrants and Latino.
“30 Americans” The Rubell Family Collection is on view until May 30, 2009 at The Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida.