Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection is the latest in a series of focused installations highlighting unique areas of strength in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Featuring artists who have shaped the course of American art across eight decades, Statements brings together more than 40 works in a wide range of media, from Richmond Barthé’s iconic Feral Benga of 1935 to Mark Bradford’s Circa 1992, created in 2015.
The exhibition presents three interwoven themes, starting with the generation of artists who came of age between the 1930s and 1960s, including John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Melvin Edwards, and Loretta Pettway. Viewed as pioneers, these leaders and mentors are celebrated not only for their forward-looking work, but also for the recognition they received that helped break down institutional barriers.
The second segment of Statements focuses on artists who charted America's changing social landscape from the 1950s forward. The rise of Civil Rights is represented through photographs by Louise Ozell Martin, Gordon Parks, and Ernest C. Withers. Other, more subjective examples, reflect both urban and rural experience, including works by Lonnie Holley, Jean Lacy, and Thornton Dial, Sr.
The final section focuses on contemporary artists who directly challenge stereotypes and map the complexities of identity politics through portraiture and narrative. Among the artists represented are Mequitta Ahuja, Nick Cave, Glenn Ligon, and Kara Walker, along with many who have a strong Houston presence today, including Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Michael Ray Charles, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Tierney Malone.