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First Look: State of the Art 2020

State of the Art 2020 is opening at the Momentary and Crystal Bridges this Saturday, February 22. Three of our curators spent more than a year traveling across the country to meet with artists working in communities large and small. 61 artists were chosen to be represented in this exhibition that answers the question: what does art in the United States look like in the year 2020? State of the Art 2020 will be on view at the Momentary and throughout the permanent galleries of Crystal Bridges. It is free to view at both locations.

Get a first look at some of the artists and artworks that will be featured in State of the Art 2020 at the Momentary:

Suchitra Mattai, Exodus, 2019, Vintage saris from India; Sharjah; and artist’s Indo-Guyanese family; and rope net 180 × 480 in., Courtesy of K Contemporary Art and the artist.

Suchitra Mattai, EXODUS

Like many artists in State of the Art 2020 (and many artists working across the United States) Suchitra Mattai has lived and worked in many different places across the globe. Currently, the multidisciplinary artist who works in painting, fiber, drawing, collage, installation, video, and sculpture lives and works in Denver, Colorado. She was born in Guyana, South America and has also lived in Nova Scotia, Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis, and Udaipur, India. Her background and the many places she has lived have had a great impact on her artwork and how she sees the world.

Exodus (2019) consists of vintage Indian saris (a woman’s garment from Indian subcontinent) from Mattai’s family woven together with saris from Sharjah and India. For Mattai, Exodus “connects diasporic communities of South Asians across the globe, giving voice to generations of women while also probing questions of displacement resulting from European colonization. Many South Asians left India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work as indentured laborers around the world. Focusing on this period is both a means of tracing my family’s history in Guyana and of fostering discussion around contemporary issues surrounding labor and gender.”

Written by Lauren Haynes, curator, contemporary art, Crystal Bridges; curator of visual arts, the Momentary

Jody Kuehner, DITCH, 2019, Fabric, polyfill, wood, cardboard, installation, and performance, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.

Jody Kuehner, DITCH

DITCH, a performance and installation by dancer and director Jody Kuehner, known as her alter ego and drag persona Cherdonna Shinatra, is entertaining and showy. The persona, Cherdonna Shinatra, is something Kuehner herself has been developing for over 10 years. It’s her way to not only explore, but also help people question themselves and the world around them. More than anything, Shinatra is a “vehicle for [her] to express [herself] through form and melding clowning with contemporary dance.” A queer woman herself, she’s bearing in mind her own queerness, as well as her audience as she works to claim space for those who identify as femme, gender non-conforming, and queer.

The installation is made up of bright colors and soft objects protruding from the wall. The walls are fabric-coated and paired with checkerboard flooring. When activated by Shinatra and her dance company DONNA, it becomes a playhouse. They laugh and joke. They’re happy and sad. For her performance, Cherdonna uses clowning, drag, theater, comedy, performance art, camp, pop culture, gay culture, dance traditions, feminist traditions, absurdity, and subversive commentary to make art. As stated by Cherdonna, “the work explores experiences around our collective queerness, femme-centric, professionally-trained contemporary dance bodies.”

Visitors can catch a performance of DITCH at the Momentary on the following dates:

  • Thursday, April 2: 2 pm to 6 pm
  • Friday, April 3: 2 pm to 6 pm
  • Saturday, April 4: 11 am to 3 pm
  • Sunday, April 5: 11 am to 3 pm

Kuehner will also perform as Cherdonna during Drag Night at Crystal Bridges on April 1.

Written by Jayson Overby, curatorial assistant

Paul Stephen Benjamin, Summer Breeze, 2018, Video installation, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of Paul Stephen Benjamin.

Paul Stephen Benjamin, Summer Breeze

Paul Stephen Benjamin is a multiple-media artist based in Atlanta, Georgia who explores blackness. Within his artistic practice, Benjamin is continually posing the questions, “What is the color black?” and “If the color black had a sound, what would it sound like?” Each painting, video installation, assemblage, sculpture, and performance that Benjamin creates is proposing an answer to this question. This question is at the root of Benjamin’s video installation works. These works, first began in 2012, consist of dozens of televisions, found images, and sound and video footage.

In Summer Breeze (2018), Benjamin combines clips of the singers Billie Holiday and Jill Scott separately singing part of Holiday’s iconic 1939 song “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynching and racism in the United States. Benjamin has edited the clips so the only parts of the songs we hear are each woman singing “black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.” This soundtrack accompanies images that Benjamin has sourced including footage of a little girl on a swing. With Summer Breeze, and all of his works, Benjamin is not trying to tell us what the color black is, or even what it sounds like—he is instead challenging us to offer our own answers to the question.

Written by Lauren Haynes, curator, contemporary art, Crystal Bridges; curator of visual arts, the Momentary

Want more of a first look? Read about some of the artworks that will be featured at Crystal Bridges here.

Get your free timed ticket to opening weekend of the Momentary and be among the first to see State of the Art 2020!