The Washington Post

30 Americans, exploring black identity

In the main rotunda leading to the “30 Americans” exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art is “Duck, Duck, Noose” by Gary Simmons. It’s an arresting ceiling-to-floor installation of Ku Klux Klan hoods atop nine seats arranged in a circle. A large noose hangs in the middle.

View Photo Gallery: The Corcoran Gallery of Art’s newest exhibition, “30 Americans,” comprises works owned by Donald and Mera Rubell, who hope to single-handedly change the D.C. art scene.

“It shook me; it made me sad,” said Cassandra Hardison, a D.C. native who visited the exhibition to motivate to get back to creating art. “But it’s also proof to how human beings can rise above things.”

The exhibit, which runs through Feb. 12, explores black identity in America through the eyes of 31 prominent African American artists.  The exhibit has generated a lot of buzz, particularly in social media, encouraging visitors to share and retell their experiences with the artwork.

Among those featured in the exhibit are legends including Jean-Michel Basquiat with his signature crowns and Hank Willis Thomas, whose work is a social commentary on basketball and branding among African Americans.

Brenda Duiguid, a District resident, approached “30 Americans” skeptically. She expected to be angry by the end of her visit. She wasn’t.

“I was really, really anxious because I grew up with Jim Crow laws, so it brings back memories,” she said. “Some scenes are uncomfortable. But you to have experience it to work through your feelings and heal.”

Art student Will Schneider-White was attracted to the exhibit because he we wanted to see Rashid Johnson, Nick Cave and William Pope.L’s work in person. He was also excited to see younger artists, names he hadn’t heard of, as he considers himself a young painter.

Linda O’Doughda and Doug Hollmann of Annapolis related the lynching pieces to the kind of vigilante mentality that some have regarding immigration.

“Art like this opens the conversation and helps us move forward.  A lot of younger whites don’t understand how bad it was,” said Hollmann, who grew up in Nassau County, N.Y., at time when segregation was still very much alive before he became a parole officer in Harlem.

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