Examining the vast cultural blend of Modern American society, Infinite Mirror: Images of American Identity is a rich, reflective exhibition showcasing the works of 39 different artists, on view January 26- March 24 at the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum. Organized around four main themes – Self Selection, Pride, Assimilation and Protest – Infinite Mirror re-examines both the story and storytellers of the quintessential “American Dream” through a wide variety of media. “The images reflect the complex dynamics between people and within the minds of individuals as they participate in and contribute to a composite, inestimable culture,” explain Blake Bradford, Curator of Infinite Mirror and Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation. “We, as Americans, would need an infinite mirror to see our full reflection.”
This diverse exhibition is comprised of the works of American artists of African, Arab European, Asian, Latino, and Native American descent, who explore their heritage through their art, evoking emotions of humor, heartache, anger, and apprehension. The artists assembled for Infinite Mirror illuminate some of America’s shadowy corners while remaining in the spirit of idealism and raising the questions about race, class, gender and age through each theme. They examine patriotism, communication, the struggle for acceptance, and what it truly means to be an American in the twenty-first century.
Self Selection reflects how we choose to present and project ourselves to the world. Largely based in portraiture, the variety of techniques and twists on this age-old art form convey a multitude of values, desires and anxieties. In Ben Gest’s Alice Waiting, we see an older woman in a contemporary variation on a seated portrait, alluding to our interdependence and the multitude of ways in which society shares space and time.,
In Pride, artists explore an appreciation of one’s origins, character, values and personal accomplishments. Some works convey confidence and defiance in the face of inequality or degradation, while many others warmly exude joy, love and strength. These artists celebrate their lives as U.S. citizens while acknowledging the histories and traditions of their familial roots. Leamon Green Jr. renders this balance in his mixed media work Big Man Advisor, depicting a seated man flanked with a Benin sculpture to his left and a Roman or Greek statue to his right, paying tribute to both his African and European heritage.
Many artists in Infinite Mirror are weighing in on the two-way transaction of Assimilation, the third theme, by investigating the degree to which new cultural contributions are accepted, mined, or rejected by society, while others are examining the degree to which they have retained their original cultures and the ways in which they have evolved and emerged in their changing environments. The tension that exists between these two ideas is the point of creative take-off for artists such as Tomie Arai, whose Peach Boy etching shows a young boy donning the trappings of a cowboy on the frontier, hinting at the actual experience of Asian immigrants working on the railroad and the myth of the American West.
Protest, the final theme, explores the American tradition of questioning the ideals of U.S. politics and social culture. In Richard Ray Whitman’s Do Indians Go to Santa Fe When They Die? and Edgar Heap of Birds’ Telling Many Magpies, Telling Black Wolf, Telling Hachivi, the artists use their work to question the treatment of Native Americans in the past and present.
Infinite Mirror is developed by Artrain, Inc. and Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia, PA, and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. Presented with support from the Institute of Museum & Library Services and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition opens Friday, January 25, 2013, in conjunction with the exhibition, Stephen Knapp: New Light. A lecture and closing reception on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 will feature exhibition curator, Blake Bradford, Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The lecture begins at 1pm at the Storer Auditorium, University of Miami School of Business, with a reception following at 2pm at the Lowe Art Museum. The lecture is free for Lowe members and University of Miami students; the reception is free for Lowe members and $10 for non-members.
Curated by Blake Bradford, Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. Co-curators are Benito Huerta, Associate Professor of Painting and Director and Curator of The Gallery at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Robert Lee, Executive Director and Curator at Asian American Arts Centre in New York. A softbound catalogue accompanies the exhibition, containing essays by the three exhibition curators and an introduction by Brandywine Workshop President Allen Edmunds. Produced by Artrain, the catalogue includes artist statements, biographies and full-color photographs.
Support for the exhibition at the Lowe Art Museum is provided in part through a grant from The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
(top) Sungho Choi (b. 1954, Korean American), Model for My America, 1993. Mixed media on wood. © D. James Dee.
(bottom) Leamon Green, Jr. (b. 1959, African American), Little Big Girl, 2005. Acrylic and silkscreen on paper. © Leamon Green Jr.