From February 18 to May 12, 2024, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) introduces “Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage.” This pioneering exhibition ventures into the multifaceted realm of Black identity through the transformative medium of collage.
Artistic Diversity in the Spotlight
Jointly organized with the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, “Multiplicity” is a comprehensive survey of contemporary collage. It unites the works of 52 prolific living artists, bridging generations and echoing the collective experiences of Blackness through art.
“We are pleased to present this groundbreaking exhibition, drawing attention to the richness of collage as an art form and its role in expressing Black identity over multiple generations of artists,” said Gary Tinterow, Director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Building on a Legacy
Multiplicity pays homage to the significant contributions of pioneering African American collage artists like Jacob Lawrence, Sam Middleton, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, and Romare Bearden, whose innovative work in the 1960s garnered critical acclaim and laid a foundation for community and collaboration. Drawing inspiration from these icons, contemporary artists within the exhibition push the boundaries of collage, employing an array of techniques from traditional cut-and-paste to digital creation. While some artists have embraced collage as their primary medium, others have incorporated it into broader practices, reflecting a spectrum of approaches to collage as a mode of artistic expression.
Deepening Themes and Artistic Dialogues
Fragmentation and Reconstruction
The journey into “Multiplicity” begins with the diverse applications of collage as a medium. Here, guests encounter an array of materials and techniques that showcase the breadth of collage today. Derek Fordjour’s “Airborne Double,” a dynamic piece using acrylic, charcoal, cardboard, oil pastel, and foil on newspaper, celebrates the vibrant tradition of HBCU marching bands. Others like Nina Chanel Abney, Yashua Klos, and YoYo Lander manipulate new paper through various processes to construct their striking compositions.
Excavating History and Memory
This section presents artists like Radcliffe Bailey, Jamal Cyrus, and Tomashi Jackson, who delve into historical photographs and publications, bringing to light narratives that have been obscured or forgotten. By weaving these elements into contemporary works, they forge connections between past and present, inviting reflection on the evolution of Black experiences.
Featuring the work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ebony G. Patterson, and Helina Metaferia, this segment explores the complexities faced by individuals who navigate dual cultural identities. The artists reflect on their lives across different countries and cultures while maintaining deep ties to their ancestral roots, offering a poignant look at personal heritage within the diaspora.
Notions of Beauty and Power
Challenging the pervasive White standards of beauty in popular culture and art history, artists like Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Tschabalala Self, and Mickalene Thomas redefine aesthetic narratives by centering bold Black women in their artworks.
Gender Fluidity and Queer Spaces
Acknowledging the rich spectrum of gender identity, this theme spotlights artists such as Rashaad Newsome and Devan Shimoyama who articulate the fluid nature of gender in a nonbinary world. Alongside them, Lovie Olivia and Wardell Milan celebrate the historically significant safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ individuals, from Harlem Renaissance gatherings to contemporary gay dance clubs.
Supporting Scholarship and Community
An extensive catalogue accompanies the exhibit, enriched with scholarly commentary, deepening the engagement with the artworks. Esteemed foundations and arts patrons back the “Multiplicity” national tour, emphasizing the collective effort behind this cultural endeavor.
Engagement and Experience
“Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage” is an immersive journey through the layered landscapes of Black identity. It stands as a celebration of artistic expression and its potent role in narrating the diverse facets of culture and identity.
For a deeper understanding and to experience this unique convergence of art and cultural expression, visit the MFAH website at mfah.org. Engage with the multifaceted narratives that “Multiplicity” brings to the forefront of contemporary art.