Seitu Jones, Oskar Ly, Maria Cristina Tavera, and Dyani White Hawk Polk were invited to join Minnesota Museum of American Art Executive Director Kristin Makholm to curate an exhibition that considers the complex question of, “what is American art?” American Art: It’s Complicated will present over 30 works from the MMAA’s collection, national galleries, and local public and private collections that question the definition of “American art” as related to nationality, identity, and geography.
Each curator approached the exhibition with their own refined set of optics. They thought carefully about the complexities of American art as they see them, then selected works that provide creative form for some of these ideas.
Seitu Jones will present a capsule show of work on loan from the Minnesota Historical Society by sculptor Maurice Carlton. Carlton was known for rummaging through the trashcans and dumpsters of the old Rondo neighborhood looking for found objects to transform into work that served as political commentary and African diaspora. The works selected by Maria Cristina Tavera call into question two assumptions: first, that “American” is limited to a landmass of united peoples; and second, that artists form collective national identities. Kristin Makholm’s lens on the subject can be viewed through works from the MMAA’s permanent collection. Her selections open up cracks in the concept of who belongs and by whose hands, eyes, and minds those ideas of inclusion are manifest.
While Jones, Tavera, and Makholm took a critical approach to the question, the remaining curators approached the questions more abstractly. Works selected by Oskar Ly are an invitation for audiences to engage in discussion around the long-standing social exchanges that live beyond the walls of a gallery in distinct communities and collective experiences. Dyani White Hawk Polk’s selections promote dialogue about the innumerable possibilities of what could represent “American art." She hopes that every person that visits this exhibition feels the same weight of impossibility in presenting an exhibition that represents every facet of the American experience, including the artistic expressions that result from these experiences.