Crystal Bridges Unveils State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now

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In Bentonville, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s newest exhibit, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, brings together the works of 102 contemporary artists from all over the country. It opens this Saturday, Sept. 13 and runs through Jan. 19 with free admission.

The groundbreaking exhibition is a discovery of artists whose work has not yet been fully recognized on a national scale. In 2013, the museum’s curatorial team logged more than 100,000 miles, and visited nearly 1,000 artists as they crisscrossed the country to communities large and small to find these artists.

“We felt strongly we needed to see the artist and not just representation of their work,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “It’s magical to be in their studios and see their influences and see that manifest in the space they work in.”

Crystal Bridges Curator Chad Alligood said the lively nature of art in communities of all sizes was impressive. “Overlooked places like Wichita, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas have rich and textured artscapes,” he added. Four artists from Arkansas are featured in the exhibition, which showcases artists with varying perspectives that offer a glimpse into American art right now.

“In its 2014 report, the National Endowment for the Arts identified more than two million working artists in this country. There likely have never been more artists at work, and yet few will receive the attention and visibility their art deserves,” Bacigalupi explained. “Artists work in all parts of our nation. Being a museum in the center of the country gives us a perfect vantage point to explore the breadth of contemporary art beyond the prevailing structures of the art world. After a long and exhilarating journey, we are thrilled to share our experiences and introduce these 102 artists to a broader audience.”

The exhibition examines the ways in which today’s artists are informed by the past, innovating with materials old and new, and engaging deeply with issues relevant to current times.

There is both whimsy and societal aching in the exhibit. One rooms feels like you’ve walked into the insides of a giant, silver Jiffy Pop popcorn bag. Another draws attention to the lost history of Mexican and Mexican-American men lynched in Texas up until the 1930s. And then there is the challenge of finding Mickey Mouse and the meaning of his representation in the art piece.

Considering the diversity of backgrounds of the artists, Alligood said, “There is something for someone to relate to whether they’re driving in for Bikes, Blues, and BBQ or just coming in from Austin.”

To date, State of the Art is Crystal Bridges’ largest exhibition in both scope and scale, representing an enormously broad spectrum of mediums, themes and artistic approaches. Occupying a total of 19,000 square feet, 227 works including oil on canvas, photography, video, installation, sculpture, ceramics and more reach beyond the temporary exhibition spaces, extending into the permanent collection galleries and community areas indoors and out.

More than half of the artists will participate in some type of educational program before the exhibition closes in January of 2015. For more information, visit: State of the Art programs.

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