Selections from two sweeping collections are coming together for a new exhibit opening Saturday at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
90.5 WESA’s Deanna Garcia spoke with the exhibit's curators, Eric Crosby of CMOA and Amanda Hunt, formerly with Harlem and now with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
The exhibit opens this weekend with a slate of accompanying events and is on display through December.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
AMANDA HUNT: It's a unique collaboration between our institutions in which we're sharing 20 artists from each collection in dialogue.
ERIC CROSBY: Broadly, we've brought together two museums to tell an American story.
DEANNA GARCIA: What will we see from Harlem in Pittsburgh?
HUNT: Literal parts of it, but also representations of it during a past era. James VanDerZee, an iconic photographer, captured the zeitgeist of the Harlem Renaissance and the people living in Harlem during that time in some of their more private spaces, moments in celebration of weddings or marking of death, just street life.
GARCIA: How does that intersect with what we'll see from Pittsburgh’s collection?
CROSBY: Well, I think I would caution people not to think about it as what you're seeing from the Carnegie Museum versus what you're seeing from the Studio Museum in Harlem. Of course the work is drawn from both collections, but they've been brought together in a way that's emphasized a kind of a dialogue. Amanda and I set ourselves the challenge of taking a kind of tour through our respective collections to see how they might reflect our own national conversation right now. How they might reflect a picture of America as we see it. These are all artworks of the past. I mean the earliest artworks in the exhibition go back to the 1920s. But they come all the way up to the present. What you encounter is a back and forth a conversational dialogue between artists.
GARCIA: How are the works in the exhibit relevant to today?
HUNT: We’ve been talking a lot about invisibility and certainly about making visible certain sustained dilemmas. Whether it's segregation across the country or just within certain microcosms of cities and communities -- that we still see in 2017 as much as we did in 1917. These are realities, and I think that increasingly with the current state of affairs it's harder to ignore the reality of things and to not be in touch with that feels a bit dangerous than this moment. So I also see the potential of this exhibition in just bringing awareness, maybe, for some where there hasn't been previously.
CROSBY: One through-line with the exhibition is that all of the artists in one way are either struggling with translating or coming to terms with or giving the kind of material expression to issues of social inequality, issues of identity, the role of the artist to express and give a frame to our current [reality].
GARCIA: What do you hope people will take away from this exhibit?
CROSBY: I think art actually helps us find a path forward or a way to ask more questions and taking that out of the galleries into our everyday life is the is the promise of art.
HUNT: It just feels incredible to be in this space right now and thinking through these ideas together -- people really reckoning with themselves and with the idea of what America represents in its current moment.