Minneapolis Institute of Art honors Black History Month

Mapping Black Identities gives voices to Black artists traditionally excluded or overlooked

Mark Freie
February 14, 2020 - 6:00 am
Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis Institute of Art


For nearly a year, the Minneapolis Institute of Art has dedicated a portion of its gallery to Mapping Black Identities. The artwork comprises pieces made solely by black artists.

The exhibit, which concludes in mid-July, focuses on giving an identity to often unrepresented voices in art and focuses on "creating connections around the concept of Blackness in contemporary art across time and place." The co-curators aimed to bring a new life to the exhibit in its final six months.

"We wanted to fill the walls with our presence, which mean the presence of black individuals," said co-curator Keisha Williams, who is a Curatorial Department Assistant and Artist Liaison at Mia.

Another goal of the display was to fill it with color, joy, and happiness which presented a complicated task.

"While there are moments of celebration, there are moments of pain," Williams said.

One of the colorful pieces of the display is a sculpture by Nick Cave called Soundsuit. At first glance, the statue appears to be a fun representation, but it holds a much deeper meaning.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

"When you see it you think it's fun and happy, but this was also rooted in pain for Cave," Williams said. "This was a moment for him to create a suit to cover-up his identity as a black man and hide from the world. It was a way for him to take up space in a way he couldn't as his true self."

Williams says Mapping Black Identities is important for voices and people who historically have not been represented in art and museums.

"Collecting objects of curiosity was done by wealthy white men and that continued," she said. "My identity and many others were not welcomed. We're still working to correct those historic mistakes."

The task to represent the under-represented was not an easy one for the co-curators of Mapping Black Identities. 

"It's a lot of hard work and a lot of heart work," Williams said. "I came to terms with how important this work was and that it was more important than just me as an individual. It was emotional for me to find the works that created a space where more people felt welcomed."

The exhibition started when the gallery acquired Frank Bowling’s map painting False Start. 

Minneapolis Institute of Art

"We began acquiring more pieces and building this display," Williams said. "That's exactly what we want to do. We want to make exhibitions that bring more work and power into the museum. We want you to feel that celebration of black identities and we hope that you feel seen in this art."

Mapping Black Identities is a free exhibition. It runs until July 19, 2020 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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