April 22, 2023 - September 10, 2023
Together is a celebration.
The grand opening welcomes the community back to the Museum with art, inaugurating the new galleries with an AMFA-curated exhibition that envisions togetherness. With meditations on family, friends, community, and our connection to the natural world, these themes overlap and playfully shift like a colorful kaleidoscope. Together reflects the diversity of AMFA’s community and affirms our institutional commitment to openness and inclusivity as we embark on a new chapter in our history.
Greeting visitors is a vibrant, larger-than-life portrait by Ryan RedCorn of Chantelle Keshaye Pahtayken and Shay Pahtayken, Plains Cree mother and daughter. A member of the Osage Nation, RedCorn creates photographs that place indigenous people squarely in the present.
Equally colorful is the monumental, collaged triptych by Oliver Lee Jackson that blends multiple arts and is one of three works in the exhibition on loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Several works have been purchased for the exhibition, including Elias Sime’s Tightrope (2022), made from reclaimed electrical wires and computer keys. The work is a statement about how technology connects us globally, but also about the environmental impact of e-waste shipped to Africa from around the world.
Together demonstrates the power of art to tell complex stories with wit and substance and celebrates our differences. Julie Blackmon stages uncanny versions of everyday moments, while Sarah Sense cuts images of her ancestral homeland into strips and weaves them into traditional Indigenous patterns. From video and painting to textile and wood marquetry, whatever the means, these artists render their subjects in unique ways, occasionally pushing the boundaries of a particular medium.
Some of the artists in Together are established in art history, such as Jim Hodges, whose collaboratively constructed flower curtain You honors all who made and encounter it. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s stack of paper prints, meant for visitors to take one-by-one, is a disappearing monument to his beloved partner Ross. Notions of family are further represented through diverse lenses, as captured in work by artists from Little Rock, including LaToya Hobbs and Jess T. Dugan.
Others have global roots, including Anila Quayyum Agha and Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, who both use thread as the ties that bind us to place and to each other. With art from the last thirty years, the exhibition also has a few inclusions from the 1960s, another era of active self-reflection. These include Corita Kent, the so-called “Pop Art nun,” who combined world philosophies, social justice, and community building into an art practice.
While we sheltered in place at the start of the 2020 global pandemic, cars disappeared from the roads and birds had unexpected quiet. It was a dramatic example of our relationship with, and impact on nature. When we re-emerged from our homes, the safest place to gather was outdoors. It was important that nature be part of Together and we acknowledge its fragile beauty, and that it envelops all the exhibition’s other stories. Rather than depicting a traditional, recognizable landscape, it may be an artist’s process and materials that tenderly, even slyly, convey nature’s presence in their work.
More than 30 artists’ works are brought into fresh conversation, interweaving the experiences, penchants, and research avenues of its curatorial staff, from Instagram discoveries to longstanding relationships. The wide range of artistic expression alludes to the diversity and scope of AMFA exhibitions to come.
Together is meant to spark conversations, create surprises, offer much-needed humor, inspire empathy, and reveal some breathtaking beauty.