Wiley is calling the evening “Rebirth of the Cool,” a take-off of his own fish fry that happens during Art Basel Miami and a nod to “Birth of the Cool,” an exhibition by Barkley Hendricks. Hendricks and Wiley are two of the 31 African American artists in the Corcoran exhibition that officially opens Saturday.
The proceeds from the party, which cost $35 and will be held at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, will underwrite the artists programs scheduled during the show’s run until February 12.
“Rebirth” is also a goal of the current leadership at the Corcoran.
“This is the next chapter for the Corcoran,” said Henry L.Thaggert, a museum board member. “About 40 shows in the last 30 years have focused on African American art. But this one is different. And I am just going to put it out there. It is rare that a major institution gives black artists that recognition. I’m very proud of the Corcoran for that.”
“The programs around the show are the culmination of one of the most extensive planning events in Corcoran history. There are more programs and more events around this show than ever,” said Fred Bollerer, the museum’s director and president.
“30 Americans” is drawn from the contemporary art collection of Don and Mera Rubell.
The show is about racial, sexual and historic identity. At a Wednesday session with the media Hank Willis Thomas and other artists explained the directions in their work. Thomas is included in the main show but also has a separate show of photographs and video work.
Standing by a 2003 work that shows a brand in a black male’s hair, Thomas explained he was “trying to make a commentary about how slaves were branded as ownership. Now we live in a state of branded consciousness.” In the room of new work called “Strange Fruit” he examines the legacy of lynching. In one series he decided to picture the people lynched without any ropes around their necks. “I am looking at them as martyrs. We don’t really know about many people who were lynched. So the stained glass references in the background give them an angelic presence.”
Thomas will discuss his work at the Corcoran on November 28 at 7 p.m.