Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, United States
30 Apr 2017 - 14 Oct 2017

Carrie Mae Weems
Untitled (Woman standing in cemetery), 2003
Gelatin silver print, edition of 5, 2APs 20 x 20 inches

Carrie Mae Weems Untitled (Woman standing in cemetery), 2003 Gelatin silver print, edition of 5, 2APs 20 x 20 inches

The Speed Art Museum presents Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art, the Speed’s largest and most ambitious contemporary art exhibition to date, which opens at the Speed on April 30, 2017. Co-organized with the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the Speed is the second stop in this national exhibition, which opened at the Nasher in September 2016. Southern Accent will be on view at the Speed through October 14, 2017.

Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art questions and explores the complex and contested space of the American South. Presenting a wide range of perspectives, from both within and outside of the region, the exhibition creates a composite portrait of southern identity through the work of 60 artists. The art reflects upon and pulls apart the dynamic nature of the South’s social, political and cultural landscape. Southern Accent includes work dating back to the 1950s, but primarily focuses on art produced within the past 30 years.

William Faulkner once suggested that the South is not so much a “geographical place” as an “emotional idea.” Southern Accent looks at the South as an open-ended question to be explored and expanded. The exhibition encompasses a broad spectrum of media and approaches, demonstrating that southernness is more of a shared sensibility than a consistent culture.

“The Speed is thrilled to host Southern Accent, which is co-curated by our own Curator of Contemporary Art, Miranda Lash,” said Ghislain d’Humieres, CEO of the Speed Art Museum. “This is a provocative and outstanding way to reimagine how we view the South in contemporary art.”

“Southern Accent showcases a plurality of voices and perspectives, male and female, native and newcomer, outsider and insider, to demonstrate that the South is an evolving concept.” said Miranda Lash, co-curator of Southern Accent and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Speed Art Museum. “Through the eyes of artists, we see the South as it has been envisioned and experienced, from its dark legacies of slavery and segregation, to its future as a region of rapidly changing demographics and growing urban centers. While the exhibition focuses on the myths, realities, and stereotypes associated with one part of the country, how we imagine the South speaks to how we think about the United States overall.”

Trevor Schoonmaker, Chief Curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art, and co-curator of the exhibition agrees. “The exhibition has been four years in the making, but the timing of Southern Accent is especially meaningful now—in the wake of the Charleston and Orlando tragedies and given the tense social climate around the presidential election. I hope Southern Accent can create a space to reimagine the South in new ways and reframe the way we think about the South in contemporary art. At its best, art can help give shape to cultural and social change, promote needed discourse and even help build community.”

Artists featured in Southern Accent include: Terry Adkins, Walter Inglis Anderson, Benny Andrews, Radcliffe Bailey, Romare Bearden, Sanford Biggers, Willie Birch, Rachel Boillot, Douglas Bourgeois, Roger Brown, Beverly Buchanan, Diego Camposeco, Mel Chin, William Christenberry, Sonya Clark, Robert Colescott, William Cordova, Jerstin Crosby and Bill Thelen, Thornton Dial, Sam Durant, William Eggleston, Minnie Jones Evans, Ralph Fasanella, Skylar Fein, Howard Finster, Michael Galinsky, Theaster Gates, Jeffrey Gibson, Deborah Grant, Barkley L. Hendricks, James Herbert and R.E.M., Birney Imes, Jessica Ingram, George Jenne, Deborah Luster, Sally Mann, Kerry James Marshall, Henry Harrison Mayes, Richard Misrach, Jing Niu, Tameka Norris, Catherine Opie, Gordon Parks, Ebony G. Patterson, Fahamu Pecou, Tom Rankin, Dario Robleto, Jim Roche, James “JP” Scott, Amy Sherald, Xaviera Simmons, Mark Steinmetz, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Hank Willis Thomas, Burk Uzzle, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jeff Whetstone.

Highlights of the exhibition include stunning, rarely exhibited watercolors by Walter Inglis Anderson, new work by Radcliffe Bailey, the moving performance piece Unraveling by Sonya Clark, and Hank Willis Thomas’s, Black Righteous Space (Southern Edition), 2012–16. Black Righteous Space is an interactive video piece with kaleidoscopic images of the Confederate Flag that have been translated into the red, black, and green colors of the Pan African Liberation movement. These images respond to a soundtrack designed by Thomas specifically for Southern Accent comprising of southern songs and speeches, and to the voices of visitors who speak into a microphone. In celebration of Southern Accent, Black Righteous Space has been generously gifted to the Speed by collectors Jim and Irene Karp.

The exhibition also features a curated music-listening library to reflect the South’s contribution to American music. Visitors will be able to listen to songs from the 1950s to recent years, spanning blues, gospel, soul, rock and roll, folk, country, funk, hip-hop, and rap. The Southern Accent Music Library is also available for streaming on Spotify.

Southern Accent will be showcased in the Speed’s new North Building.

Southern Accent is accompanied by a fully illustrated 276-page catalogue published by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and distributed by Duke University Press. This publication offers a robust expansion of the investigations raised by works in the exhibition, with texts ranging from groundbreaking scholarship to poetry, song lyrics and personal reflections. The catalogue is available for purchase at the Speed Art Museum gift shop.

Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, Cary A. Brown and Steven E. Epstein, Paul and Deborah Chellgren, and Colin and Woo Speed McNaughton.

Support for the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition season is provided by Delta Dental and Dinsmore.




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