The San Antonio Museum of Art announced that it has acquired three major artworks by African American artists Kevin Beasley, Rodney McMillian, and Martine Syms. “Each artwork was made in the last year or two and reflects the most critical ideas and issues motivating artistic practices today,” said Suzanne Weaver, the institution’s curator of modern and contemporary art.
For If I Was Standing Alone I Wouldn’t Stand It at All, 2017, Beasley dipped several housedresses, similar to those his grandmother used to wear, in resin and manipulated them into sculptural forms. Known for his multidisciplinary practice, Beasley blurs the boundary between personal memory and lived experience in his works, often while addressing issues of power, sexuality, and race. For McMillian’s landscape painting Northern Lights: For Uhura, 2016, the artist poured thick layers of colored latex paint onto a bed sheet he purchased from a thrift shop, creating patterns that recall an aerial view of the night sky or a surging river. The piece references the name of a character from the television show Star Trek. The role of Uhura was one of the first major parts specifically written for an African American actor. Beasley’s and McMillian’s works are currently on view in the museum’s contemporary art galleries.
Syms’s Laughing Gas, 2016, which comprises an immersive four-channel video installation, a painted wall text that reads “IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T,” and a large laser-cut acrylic wall piece incorporating the artist’s clothes, was first exhibited at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as part of the 2016 edition of Made in L.A. It will make its debut at the San Antonio Museum during Black History Month in February.
The insitution’s director, Katie Luber, said, “The new acquisitions are visually striking and profoundly moving works, and they represent a turning point for contemporary art at the museum.”