The Frist Art Museum is going to present a groundbreaking exhibition titled “Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage.” This landmark exhibition will feature around 80 diverse works dedicated to the diverse yet understudied component of collage in depicting Black identity and experiences. Visitors can see this engaging display, which has been meticulously curated by Katie Delmez, the museum’s senior curator, from September 15 to December 31, 2023, when it moves on to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and another yet-to-be-announced venue.
“Multiplicity” spotlights an eclectic cast of 52 artists from various walks of life and phases of their careers. Their works, when shown together, spark a conversation about cultural fusion, shifting notions of beauty, the complexities of gender, and the echoes of historical memory. Mark Bradford, Lauren Halsey, Lorna Simpson, and a plethora of others are on the roster, painting a broad canvas of how collage can interpret and depict Black identity.
The exhibition’s structural breadth, organized around seven distinct subjects, is a defining characteristic. These range from very personal experiences and shared national heritage to broader talks about gender, sexual orientation, and the many facets of ethnicity. Collage, while being the creative choice of prominent names such as Picasso, Braque, and Rauschenberg, has frequently been overshadowed in the discourse of twenty-first-century artwork. With “Multiplicity,” Delmez aspires to revitalize this dynamic method, championing its multifarious complexity and reinforcing its important contributions to the art world, particularly when viewed through the lens of Black artists who are shaping today’s cultural environment.
The project’s all-encompassing nature is seen from the fact that it extends beyond the walls of the Frist Art Museum. A variety of organizations, including Fisk University, Tennessee State University, and other local art institutions, have been encouraged to collaborate. Furthermore, complementary exhibitions will spring up in places like Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery, creating an artistic ripple effect throughout Nashville.
The essence of “Multiplicity” also lies in its homage to the past. Artists here are channeling the spirit of legends like Romare Bearden, a luminary who dramatically reshaped the collage landscape in the 1960s, ushering in a wave of innovation and communal collaboration. The artists of today, while imbibing wisdom from these stalwarts, are diversifying the very definition of collage—from traditional cut-and-paste to intricate digital overlays and everything in between.
Distinct sections within the exhibition offer varied thematic experiences. From the exploration of diverse materials in “Fragmentation and Reconstruction” to the bridge between yesteryears and the present in “Excavating History and Memory,” there is a story for every visitor. Moreover, in segments like “Notions of Beauty and Power,” traditional ideals of beauty are deconstructed, making way for more inclusive, broadened perspectives. The inclusion of themes on gender fluidity and the importance of queer spaces further augments the exhibition’s progressive narrative.
Concluding the display is an ode to the digital age—a blending of the analog and the digital. From Kahlil Robert Irving’s extensive wallpaper installations, echoing our tech-driven lives, to Arthur Jafa’s poignant video montage depicting the highs and lows of Black experiences, “Multiplicity” is not just an exhibition; it’s a resonant journey that promises to leave an indelible mark on its audience.