Photos by Amber Chin. Preview of "Something to Say" exhibit at the McNay.

The McNay art museum’s newest special collection, Something to Say, chronicles 100 years of African American art. Those visiting the exhibit are greeted by a neon sign spelling out the word “America” in the trademark style of its creator, Glenn Ligon. With this sign serving as a thesis for the collection, the viewer is guided through a room full of pieces centered on defining the nature of the African American experience in the United States.

The first section of the collection, “Icons,” uses portraits of everyday people to form a cohesive perspective of the fortitude of the individual. Stoic in their expressions, the subjects of these paintings embody dignity and resilience. Bold colors and broad brushstrokes characterize this part of the collection.

 

 

The next section, “Reflections,” presents a transition away from the stoicism seen in “Icons” and instead acts as a movement toward emotional expression. In each artist’s particular style, these pieces capture vulnerability as depicted in the solitary, or particularly personal, moments of life.

Remaining parts of the exhibit differ greatly from the initial two. In the section “Essentialism,” form and structure take precedence, and these abstract pieces express varying degrees of extravagance. ”Signs and Symbols,” another section, offers art based on traditional elements of African American culture in the United States, with its unity derived from the section’s attention to class and gender as they pertain to racial relations.

Perhaps the most commanding work in this collection is Kehinde Wiley’s “Equestrian Portrait of Count Duke Olivares.” Known for his empowering portrayals of African American figures and most recently for his presidential portrait of Barack Obama, Wiley’s piece punctuates the exhibit with a salute to the racial minority and the underdog, the face of American culture and its constant evolution.

 

 

Take a look at some of the videos of Amber emulating the art style of some of the pieces:

 

 

 

Something to Say will be open to the public through May 8 at the McNay.

 

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