ART BLACK | SPECIAL PRESENTATION: Assembly, New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists, The Blanton Museum of Art

From the Blanton Museum of Art, Assembly: New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists


The title of the presentation, Assembly, embraces the heterogeneity of work made by Black artists, refusing generalization, essentialization, and definitive interpretation. As theorized by the late British cultural critic Stuart Hall and expanded on by American philosopher Paul C. Taylor, with “assembly” comes the potential for disassembly and reassembly. In this gathering, we encounter acts of representation, resilience, reclamation, and resistance.

The installation includes works by Emma Amos, Kevin Beasley, Genevieve Gaignard, James “Yaya” Hough, Arie Pettway, Sally Pettway Mixon, Robert Pruitt, Noah Purifoy, Deborah Roberts, Lorna Simpson, Cauleen Smith, and Nari Ward. View the presentation in the Huntington gallery, located on the second museum floor of the museum.

Organized by Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Feature Image Caption: Installation view of Cauleen Smith, Light Up Your Life (For Sandra Bland), 2019, neon, plexiglass, faceted hematite, and aluminum chain, overall: 1063/4 × 68 × 5in. Commissioned and produced by Artpace San Antonio. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of an anonymous donor, 2020

Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith’s flashing neon sculpture Light Up Your Life (For Sandra Bland) alternates between “I will light you up,” the words shouted to Sandra Bland by a Texas State Trooper, and “I will light up your life,” lyrics from the 1970s hit famously sung by Debby Boone and later Whitney Houston. About the artwork, Smith said: “I wanted to play with this threat, ‘I will light you up,’ by finding a response that neutralized it… And so, this flashing neon is a dance off, a sing-a-thon, a battle, a protest, a memento mori that collectivizes Sandra Bland’s resistance, reclaims her sovereignty, and reifies the ways in which Black culture is inextricably woven into national identities and cultures.” 

Visit The Blanton Museum of Art

The University of Texas at Austin | 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, TX 78712

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