Handout image provided by the Corcoran Gallery of Art shows Hank Willis Thomas' digital image, "Basketball and Chain", part of the "30 Americans' exhibit at the museum. (AP Photo/Corcoran Gallery of Art) (hank Willis thomas/AP)

Highlighting the exceptional work of some of the most dynamic and thought provoking African American visual artists in the last three decades 30 Americans provides visitors new and different lenses to view black identity through their art.

It is timely that this exhibit would open in Washington coinciding with the release of “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now” by the cultural critic Touré. In his latest work he examines what it means to be African American in the 21st century and challenges the traditional assumptions of the creation and performance of blackness today.

One of the great fortunes of 30 Americans for Washingtonians who wish to use their examination of art as a catalyst for introspection is the inclusion of work by Lorna Simpson.

“Why does working with a black figure necessarily mean that the work loses universal quality?” she asks.

Her contributions to 30 Americans contrast to those of Zhang Chun Hong in the Asian American Portraits of Encounter exhibit on view at the National Portrait Gallery through October 14. Their images and choice of subjects illustrate the commonalities of humanity and offer something savory to ponder – across racial, ethnic identifiers.

See a complete list of related programs and events for 30 Americans here. The exhibit runs through February 2012.

Clarence J. Fluker is a renaissance man living a life of politics and prose in Washington, D.C. He edits Substance & Style D.C, a blog about culture and community.

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