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30 Americans

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The CAC’s latest show surveys significant African-American artists of the last few decades.

“30 Americans,” a new exhibition opening February 8, 2014 at the Contemporary Arts Center, is a celebration of contemporary African-American artwork. It is sourced entirely from the Rubell Family Collection, one of the largest private contemporary art collections in the world.

Each year, the Rubell family puts together thematic exhibitions from its holdings, often driven by recent acquisitions. “A lot of the artwork is very, very recent,” says the collection’s director, Juan Roselione-Valadez. “They’re looking to stay a step ahead of the market.” Why did the Rubells decide to focus on contemporary African-American art for this show? “We noticed that there hadn’t been a strong museum survey or presentation of the diverse range of artistic practices by African-American artists,” says Roselione-Valadez.

Though “30 Americans” has visited other museums, including the Corcoran Gallery and Chrysler Museum of Art, the New Orleans iteration of the exhibition will contain works never before seen at other venues, says Roselione-Valadez. These include a “really big presentation” of works by artist Jeff Sonhouse, who combines paint with sculptural materials to create colorful, often intimidating portraits of well-known political figures and celebrities.

Roselione-Valadez’s favorite work in the show is “Passing,” a large charcoal drawing by Robert Colescott that the director describes as “melancholic.” It will be the first time Colescott’s drawing appears in the exhibition. Another standout piece is Kehinde Wiley’s “Equestrian Portrait of the Count-Duke Olivares,” a masterful revamp of the Diego Velazquez painting by the same name — only this time, the horse’s rider is black and wears a hoodie.

Roselione-Valadez and the Rubells worked with noted curator and consultant Isolde Brielmaier and CAC executive director Neal Barclay to put together this version of “30 Americans.” cacno.org