In celebration of the museum’s 10th anniversary, the Nasher Museum presented some of its most significant works from the contemporary collection. Reality of My Surroundings demonstrated the museum’s ongoing commitment to collecting contemporary work by global artists, with a focus on artists of African descent. The exhibition emphasized art’s unique role in effecting cultural change and highlights works that address pressing social issues of our day, particularly race, gender, class, immigration and globalization. It included painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, video and installation. Many of the works were new acquisitions.
The exhibition title, Reality of My Surroundings, comes from a 1991 album by the pioneering Los Angeles-based band Fishbone. Formed in 1979, the band was known for its sharp social commentary and eclectic style, fusing punk, funk, ska, soul, and hard-edge rock to make music that defied categorization. The 33 artists in this exhibition similarly challenge artistic conventions and provoke thought and dialogue on decisive contemporary themes. Their individual works spanned four decades and presented a broad range of cultural perspectives. Through this exhibition, viewers were invited to consider the complexity of their surroundings and how realities may change over time.
Artists included Hurvin Anderson, Nick Cave, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Christian Boltanski, William Cordova, Noah Davis, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, Dario Escobar, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Hassan Hajjaj, Barkley L. Hendricks, Thomas Hirschhorn, Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Beverly McIver, Steve McQueen, Zanele Muholi, Wangechi Mutu, Ebony G. Patterson, Fahamu Pecou, Robert Pruitt, Dario Robleto, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Paul Anthony Smith, Jeff Sonhouse, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Barthélémy Toguo, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The exhibition was organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, Chief Curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art.
Reality of My Surroundings was made possible in part by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.
As part of Reality of My Surroundings, other local art museum directors joined me for a lively public panel discussion on Feb. 11, 2016, on collecting and presenting work by artists of African descent. A big crowd assembled to meet these art world luminaries: New York Times art critic Holland Cotter, Studio Museum in Harlem Director Thelma Golden, San Francisco art collector Pamela Joyner, New York gallery director Jack Shainman and Pérez Art Museum (Miami) Director Franklin Sirmans.
Video by Carson Mataxis.