Melvin Edwards, Jennie C. Jones, and Lorraine O’Grady included in Us Them We | Race Ethnicity Identity, a group exhibition co-curated by Nancy Kathryn Burns and Toby Sisson at the Worcester Art Museum, MA.
The institution's press release follows:
In February 2022, the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) will present its new exhibition Us Them We | Race Ethnicity Identity, an in-depth look at how contemporary artists since the mid-1970s have used formal artistic devices in their work —such as text, juxtaposition, pattern, and seriality—to explore socio-political concepts. Us Them We will include works from 47 artists drawn from the Museum’s collection along with several significant loans. The exhibition features photography, prints, painting, and sculpture, including major works by Edgar Heap of Birds / Hock E Aye Vi, Byron Kim, Roberto Lugo, Shirin Neshat, and Lorna Simpson, among many others. Us Them We is co-curated by Nancy Kathryn Burns, Stoddard Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at WAM, and Toby Sisson, Associate Professor and Program Director of Studio Art at Clark University. The exhibition opens February 19 and runs through Juneteenth (June 19, 2022).
“With this exhibition we hope to generate a new conversation about how identity can be revealed through form itself. An artist’s decision to use certain visual motifs like repetition, movement, language, and contrast can serve to emphasize larger concepts about race and ethnicity,” said Burns. “There’s truth to the idea that ‘The medium is the message’. Art allows us to receive certain messages. However, too often, big ideas like those of political protest allow viewers to bypass a rigorous critique of a work’s individual elements.” Added Sisson, “As an artist and a professor, a thorough and thoughtful approach to media is essential. Teaching studio art is an opportunity to reveal the importance of formal concepts, which are important to artists, and ultimately to audiences, as is self-expression around issues of identity.”
In tandem with Us Them We WAM will also present a second exhibition featuring eleven Clark University students whose work addresses themes of identity, often in very personal ways. Comprised of drawings, photographs, paintings, and collages, the students created responses to objects in Us Them We. These works are the outcome of Clark’s studio course “Contemporary Directions,” which was co-taught by Sisson and Burns in spring 2021, and provided opportunities for students to speak with artists about their practice, use of different media, and their approach to creating visual expressions of complex ideas.