Art Curatorial Exhibitions

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations XXII – XXIV

Tyree, Marcus, and Yulonda Anderson visit the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.
Tyree, Marcus, and Yulonda Anderson. Photo by the author.

30 Encounters with 30 Americans is a ten week blog series showcasing the perspectives of thirty visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s 30 Americans exhibition (June 14 – September 8, 2013).

Read about the experiences of these visitors–from couples to families, from students to scholars–and see how their thoughts compare to your own. What are visitors saying about this dynamic exhibition of paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, video, and more made by African American artists since 1970?

The 30 Americans exhibition looks to the past while creating a brighter future in the mind’s of this week’s 30 Encounters with 30 Americans participants.

Conversation XXII: Yulonda Anderson, Marcus Anderson and Tyree Anderson

Tyree, Marcus, and Yulonda Anderson visit the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.
Tyree, Marcus, and Yulonda Anderson visit the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.

The Anderson family have visited the 30 Americans exhibition on their mother’s insistence, and are subsequently glad they came.  Yulonda Anderson is a social worker and poet originally from Mississippi and currently living in Milwaukee.  Her son, Marcus Anderson is an eighth grader at Audubon Middle School and a self-described, “full-time student.”  When not immersed in his studies, he enjoys playing the flute.  Meanwhile, her daughter, Tyree Anderson is a ninth grader who will begin attending Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts.  Her primarily artistic interest is painting. 

#1 What did you think of the exhibition?

Yulonda: I thought it was fabulous, eye opening and a little disturbing. A couple of people’s reactions to the pieces, because there was an opportunity to voice an opinion and/or a reaction, and some of the reactions were enlightening, and some of them were quite disheartening.  It was awesome.  I am glad that we made it.  I am so glad.

Marcus: I really liked the exhibition because I saw some really good pieces in there.  It was interesting how they all featured African Americans… [and] the way they were made.

Tyree: I found all the stuff in the exhibition to be very interesting and intriguing. It was very eye opening and made you think without anybody telling you to think… I liked the parts where you could comment [on Post-It notes] on what you thought about the art. Some of them [the responses] made you think more about the works.  I liked it very much.  I would like to come back if the exhibition is still here. I was wondering why the artists made stuff like that, how they were feeling at that moment, and that inspired me to put more feeling into what I do.

#2 What would you say to people who are considering coming to see the exhibition/artwork?

Yulonda: Why not? That is the refrain in my head. Why not?  You do not know what you are missing until you miss it.  This is an opportunity to see what you are missing.  If you have not made it, come now.  30 Americans is over on September 8th and there are pieces in the Museum by people of color. This is an exhibit for, by and about us.  As a whole it is just a drop in the bucket of what we can do.

Marcus: I do not want to answer this question.


Marcus: Just because I originally did not really have any feelings about the Milwaukee Art Museum. Well, I guess, I would tell them to actually come and see it for themselves because it is really amazing in this place.  The exhibition teaches you about a lot of interesting things.  You should just come and see it, or you are going to miss it, and then, you are going to feel terrible.

How do you feel after viewing 30 Americans?

Marcus: I am so glad my mom dragged me here.

Tyree: You get a free sticker. Also, the images that you see outside is nothing compared to what is inside.  If you do not see it, then you are missing out. Once you see the exhibition, you will definitely have something to tell about what you did this summer.

#3 Please choose a particular artist or artwork that stands out in your mind.  Comments or thoughts? 

Yulonda: Well, it was the carpet – Untitled by Rodney McMillan.  It is from 2005 and it is a giant carpet from his grandmother’s apartment. I would not say it was my favorite, but it was the most thought provoking when the description said, “We do not have a description.  It is just there for you to look at and to talk about.” It is my assumption is that Rodney McMillan is… an African American and he ripped the stained carpet out of his grandmother’s apartment for God knows whatever reason, but because it is from an environment that looks very used.  It is a small carpet, and it has a hallway strip, so it is probably from a very small space, which his grandma probably spent a lot of time in.  The carpet can conjure up a vast amount of emotions from destitution to renewal.  From anywhere in that range, his grandmother may have ripped out the carpet because she was buying a new house, or he ripped out the carpet because his grandma died.  It evokes a lot of thought and you are not provided with an answer, which means you have to think more about it.  [Alternatively,] my very favorite piece in the whole entire exhibit though was Negro Sunshine [by Glenn Ligon]… because Negroes are shiny and we so very rarely get to shine in positive, nondescript ways.  We are shiny and we are creative and we are lovely, and those two words in neon just signify everything I have been trying to tell these two people [motioning to her children] for their entire lives.

Marcus: The artwork that most intrigued me was the video description of a man… crawling.  It is amazing how he was able to crawl all the way to the Bronx.  Yes, it was amazing to see how he travel that far even though he is crawling all the way.  It showed me that you can basically do anything when you put your mind to it. It could also be hard on the way, because our culture has been put through a lot of stress.  It is really amazing to see who can do that, specifically, and it really made me feel good about myself and my race.

Tyree: My favorite was the Soundsuits [by Nick Cave]… The first one as you walk into 30 Americans was the one I liked the most because it made me see all the different angles and how colorful it was. It blew my mind.

Conversation XXIII: Steven Knopp

Steven Knopp visits the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.
Steven Knopp visits the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.

Steven Knopp is a Catholic priest who moved to Milwaukee about a year-and-a-half ago.  A member of the Milwaukee Art Museum, he visits the Museum frequently.  However, this is his first opportunity to view the 30 Americans exhibition.  Steven came to the Museum for the express purpose of visiting 30 Americans before it ends on Sunday, September 8th.

#1 What did you think of the exhibition?

I was extremely pleasantly surprised.  I was not sure when I saw the articles come out in the magazine and I was not initially excited by the exhibition. It was extremely interesting and very informative.  I appreciated some of the paintings [by Kehinde Wiley]; especially the triptych where he mimics the three portraits of Charles I [Triple Portrait of Charles I].  I love it – seeing that kind of perspective on classical artwork is what appeals to me more… Although I love nineteenth century art, too, I really appreciated seeing some modern cultural interpretations that were [based on] a style of art that I would tend to be drawn to more naturally.

#2 What would you say to people who are considering coming to see the exhibition/artwork?

Steven: You [the reader] have only got a week left to get down here and see 30 Americans. It was worth it… I had actually been to the museum a couple of times while it was open and had not seen it yet.  So, take it from me, it is very much worth taking the time to visit the exhibit.

#3 Please choose a particular artist or artwork that stands out in your mind.  Comments or thoughts?

Steven: Well, the first one that struck me was the [triptych by Kehinde Wiley] that I already mentioned.  There were a couple of other pieces… that I [thought] were pretty fascinating [by Rashid Johnson].  I really liked the dripping effect of everything.  The kind of crazy mediums he used… [such as] wax soap and shea butter… provide some really interesting texture. The subject matter of [Citizen Band]… has all kinds of antique electronics. It has antique electronics and stuff.  It is almost like it is all melting away.  I find this to be an interesting effect with all of the [works by Rashid Johnson].  [I Who Have Nothing] had two old LP’s on it and just the starkness of those items with the backdrops made it feel as though it was melting away into oblivion, or the past. This artwork is not about you being an art expert.  This is about how you feel about the expression.  That is the whole point.

Conversation XXIV: Jeffrey Anderson and Derek Sippel

Jeffrey Anderson and Derek Sippel visit the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.
Jeffrey Anderson and Derek Sippel visit the Museum on August 30, 2013. Photo by the author.

Jeffrey Anderson was raised in the Milwaukee area and now spends nine months in Naples, Florida and three months in Milwaukee each year.  Meanwhile, Derek Sippel is visiting Milwaukee for the first time to be with Jeffrey. He is a travel nurse from Pittsburgh. However, Derek’s occupation is temporarily taking him “here, there and everywhere.”  Soon, Derek will be relocating to join Jeffrey in Naples, Florida.

#1 What did you think of the exhibition?

Jeffrey: I thought the exhibition was very thought provoking because it is so not what my experience was growing up white and suburban.  It really helped me get a good perspective on the black experience and growing up black.

Derek: I would have to say the same thing. 30 Americans really opened my eyes a bit more to things that we take for granted, or that there is this [different] experience. There are commonalities based upon, in this case, race, but then – at the same time – you do not want lump people together with, “Oh, well you are African American. So of course, A, B and C.” I think the variety of works whether it is the actual content, or the media shows that there is quite a bit of diversity within the African American community.

#2 What would you say to people who are considering coming to see the exhibition/artwork?

Jeffrey: Definitely worthwhile.  I think that even today – even though we like to think of ourselves as being post-racial – there still is a lot of racism in the country.  I think it is good for all of us to try to get a better understanding of each other and things like [the 30 Americans exhibition] truly help.

Derek: Goodness, Jeffery and I are sharing a lot of the same thought processes… I would agree. In going through this exhibition, particularly Duck, Duck, Noose, [by Gary Simmons]… I feel as though we have taken two steps forward and still one step back in many ways.  I think this exhibition really gets you thinking and produces a dialogue saying, “Have we really come that far?”  We like to think that we have, but there are large pockets of racism in what are supposed to be very forward-thinking parts of this country.  It is really unfortunate that people can not see beyond that. That racism is, unfortunately, still alive and well in 2013 despite many people’s best efforts.

#3 Please choose a particular artist or artwork that stands out in your mind.  Comments or thoughts?

Jeffrey: Well, for me, it was the Duck, Duck, Noose [by Gary Simmons.]  That happened in my lifetime.  I can not believe [when considering] where we are today that that could have happened in my lifetime.

Derek: I think the artist whose works I really enjoyed were Nick Cave’s and largely because of the detail. In so much of his artwork [there was such] fine detail: the beading and the fabric… Also, I knew that some of his large works have a musical component to them.

Yes, two of Nick Cave’s works are called, “Soundsuits.”

Derek: Yeah. I really liked his pieces a lot.

– – – – – –

Check back next week for 30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations XVI – XVIII30 Americans is at the Milwaukee Art Museum from June 14 through September 8, 2013. For more information, please click here.

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations XIX – XXI

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations XVI – XVIII

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations XIII – XV

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations X – XII

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations VII – IX

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations IV – VI

30 Encounters with 30 Americans: Conversations I – III

Sarah Rabinowe is a summer Curatorial Intern at the Museum.  Sarah is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and this autumn she will be moving to England to complete her Masters degree in History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Oxford.

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