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Knowing Who We Are tells the ever-changing story of the South through the evolving permanent collection of Ogden Museum of Southern Art. This exhibition examines the development of visual arts in the American South from the 19th century to the present. In doing so, it shifts focus from antiquated stereotypes of region, period, style and subject to address a contemporary understanding of varied histories reflecting broader inclusivity and representation. The multi-floor installation explores the contributions of artists who were transformative yet largely unrecognized – all in consideration of the indomitable presence of place, often an all-consuming and monolithic lens through which art produced in the South is perceived.
Ogden Museum opened to the public in the newly completed Goldring Hall in 2003, with a founding donation by Roger Houston Ogden of over six hundred works. Since then, the Museum has continued to collect – embracing the growing acknowledgement of the importance of Southern Art and expanding to over four thousand works of art that empower the Museum to look toward the next decade. For over 20 years, Ogden Museum has established its pioneering role in shaping our narrative while celebrating the diversity, complexity and vibrancy of the region – in physical and cultural spaces.
Drawing inspiration from Ralph Ellison who said, “knowing where we are has a lot to do with our knowing who we are,” this exhibition provides a portrait of place that challenges conventional notions of Southern identity. With a geographic region spanning from Baltimore to Miami to El Paso, Knowing Who We Are celebrates the true diversity of the region – its histories, cultures and proximate traditions – offering a view of Southern identity that is more fully representative of its people. This exhibition traces how artists in the American South – with every developing art movement – responded with a characteristic blend of tradition and innovation, while vigorously and authentically questioning the complicated and often tragic history, in both perception and reality, of the region.Support Knowing Who We Are
MADE POSSIBLE BY THE
FOR AMERICAN ART
Roger H. Ogden & Ken Barnes
New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund
Jason Waguespack & Jeffery Morgan
Gregory Holt & Lucy Burnett
Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation
Stuart B. Hurt
Holly & Geoff Snodgrass
Charles D. Urstadt & David Bernard
Suzie & Ted Bloch III M.D.
Steven, Erin & Ethan Chevalier
Harrison & Veronica Cho
Mollye & Laurent Demosthenidy
Debra J. Fischman
Monica Frois & Eve Masinter in Honor of Shirley Rabé Masinter
Jessie & Beau Haynes
Donna & Jack Little
Matthew B. Moreland
MR: a visual communication studio
Don & Lola Norris
Schley Family Foundation
Laura & Sonny Shields
William & Jane Sizeler
Micki Beth Stiller
Sarah Story & Chris Ragland
Carla & Cleophus Thomas, Jr.
Erica J. Washington
Fern & Kevin Watters
Jennie Cannon West & Jason Richards
Sharonda R. Williams
Penny Weaver in memory of Ersy Schwartz
Justin I. Woods
January 28, 2023 – July 23, 2023 on Floor 5
Contemporary experiences of place and identity in the American South are myriad, situational and decidedly in flux. This selection of works from Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s permanent collection considers the many ways artists throughout the region explore concepts of process, material and identity through diverse media and practices. Knowing Who We Are: The Contemporary Dialogue – while focusing primarily on works by contemporary artists – also includes works by earlier artists who have contributed significantly to the current dialogue. By placing artists such as Benny Andrews, Robert Gordy, George Dureau, Sam Doyle, Purvis Young and Clementine Hunter in the context of more contemporary artists – the present is linked to the past to facilitate a conversation on the social narratives and formal considerations within Southern Art. Together, these works illustrate how Southern artists are actively engaging with their region and with the rest of the world through their practice and how Ogden Museum is filling a critical role in confronting the past, embracing the future and bridging the reconciliation of both.The Contemporary Dialogue
April 1, 2023 – March 2024 on Floor 4
The art of the American South has never existed in isolation. It has – since the earliest moments of the American experience – run concurrent with dominant academic art movements and popular trends, while maintaining a distinct regional identity. On the 4th floor of Ogden Museum’s Goldring Hall, Knowing Who We Are will explore the rise of Abstraction, Photography and Vernacular Art.
While Modernism and Abstract Expressionism developed in the first half of the twentieth century, many artists working in the American South incorporated these new ideas into their practice after World War II. This section of the exhibition traces the development of abstraction in Southern Art through examples by leading figures including Fritz Bultman, Dusti Bongé, Sam Gilliam, Ida Kohlmeyer, Robert Reed, Eugene Martin, Minnie Evans, John T. Scott, Kendall Shaw and Dorothy Hood, among others.
As photography developed in the 20th century, Southern artists were deeply involved in bringing lens-based studio practices from the realm of commercial portraiture and journalism into contemporary art dialogue. Photographers include Marion Post Wolcott, Roland Freeman, Eudora Welty, William Christenberry, Kael Alford and L. Kasimu Harris, among others.
Art in the South came to the forefront of international attention, as when the art world embraced the freedom and innovation of Self-Taught and Visionary art in the late-20th century, and vernacular artists from the South arose as leading figures in that national dialogue. Works by Thornton Dial, Bessie Harvey, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Helen Burkhart Mayfield, Clementine Hunter, Roy Ferdinand, George Andrews and more are featured on this floor in conversation with abstraction and photography.KNOWING WHO WE ARE: THE RISE OF ABSTRACTION, VERNACULAR ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY
April 1, 2023 – March 2024 on Floor 3
Drawing predominantly from the permanent collection at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Knowing Who We Are traces the development of art in the American South, beginning with academic traditions in landscape and portraiture in the 19th century. As trends in American art changed, so too did the practice of artists in the American South. Although closely aligned with the shifting dialogue in American art, art in the American South followed at its own pace – sometimes leading the charge into new territories, while at other times circling back to previously held ground.
The third floor of Goldring Hall illustrates how, with each new development – from early photography, Impressionism, Tonalism, the Arts & Crafts Movement and Symbolism through American Scene Painting, Social Realism and Regionalism – Southern artists responded with a distinct blend of tradition and innovation along with a steadfast awareness of the power of place. Artists include Jacques Amans, Joseph Meeker, Ellsworth Woodward, Lulu King Saxon, Julian Onderdonk, Elizabeth Catlett, George Ohr, Angela Gregory, Richmond Barthé, Bill Traylor, Walker Evans, Benjamin Wigfall, Walter Anderson and many more.Knowing Who We Are: From 19th Century Academic Painting through Southern Regionalism