Italy reopens. Slowly but well. From 28 May to 29 August 2021 Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence, will present American Art 1961–2001, a major exhibition taking a new perspective on the history of contemporary art in the United States. The exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of more than 80 works by celebrated artists including Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Louise Nevelson, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Bruce Nauman, Barbara Kruger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, Kara Walker and many more, exhibited in Florence through a collaboration with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Exhibiting many formative works for the first time in Italy, the exhibition examines the most important figures and movements that marked the development of American art between two major historical moments, the beginning of the Vietnam War and the 9/11 attack, from Pop Art to Minimalism, from Conceptual Art to the Pictures Generation – and including more recent artistic developments in the 1990s and 2000s.
Curated by Vincenzo de Bellis (Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Visual Arts, Walker Art Center) and Arturo Galansino (Director General, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi), the exhibition takes an in-depth look at the breadth of American artistic production in the latter part of the 20 th century, encompassing painting, photography, video, sculpture, and installation art. It proposes an unprecedented reinterpretation of forty years of history, exploring the rapid evolution of modern and contemporary art through its shifting boundaries, merging of different techniques and media, and foregrounding the role of art as a powerful tool for addressing such topics as consumerism, mass production, feminism and gender identity, racial issues, and the struggle for civil rights.
American Art 1961–2001 traces a path through these formative decades by showcasing the works of more than 50 artists, including Andy Warhol, whose celebrated painting Sixteen Jackies (1964) depicts First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the wake of the assassination of JFK; and renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham, whose practice will be exemplified by large-scale collaborations made with artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The era of the Sixties is witnessed through works by masters such as Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman and John Baldessari, figures who became reference points for subsequent generations of artists to redefine the possibilities of art. Artists of a subsequent generation continued to address such topics as the reframing of the male gaze in the work of Cindy Sherman; the appropriation of mass-media images by artists Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger, the denunciation of the stigma of AIDS in the work of Félix
González-Torres; or the disquieting narratives of Matthew Barney, whose 1999 video installation Cremaster 2 delves into the world of Gary Gilmore, a murderer who asked to be given the death penalty in 1977.
This full installation will be on display in the Palazzo Strozzi exhibition, shown for the first time in Italy with Barney’s accompanying sculptural objects and photographs. A special focus in the exhibition is dedicated to artistic developments of the 1990s and 2000s interrogating American identity and featuring the work of such artists as Kerry James Marshall and Glenn Ligon, Paul McCarthy, and Jimmie Durham. Key works in film and on paper by Kara Walker, presenting her evocative investigations of history, racial discrimination, and social satire, will also be featured.The United States of America represents a complex melting pot of different cultures, traditions, and identities: one of the historical prototypes of contemporary democracy that still today contains deep social, racial and gender contradictions – says curator Vincenzo de Bellis. Art allows us to be able to tell the stratifications of such a complex society. And this is what the American Art 1961-2001 exhibition aims to do, conceived as a story through the many artistic expressions of the USA. This narrative makes use of the extraordinary works from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which houses one of the most unique and important museum collections in the United States and the world. The richness and diversity of his works prove that a single history of America and its art does not exist; rather, there are countless stories and figures that open further new stories and possibilities.
After a difficult year like 2020, this exhibition is a restart signal for the social and cultural life of Florence and Tuscany, firstly for our local public but also to our national and international visitors – says Arturo Galansino. American Art 1961-2001 is an outstanding cultural event that traces a path through the art and history of this period, addressing issues such as the struggle for civil rights and the role of women in the art world. American Art 1961-2001 offers a renewed reflection on the idea of “American Dream” thanks to the works of artists who redefine the role and possibilities of art, and as a tool to address and highlight issues and contradictions that affect politics, society, and individual identity, in America and beyond.
The exhibition is promoted and organized by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi supporters: Comune di Firenze, Regione Toscana, Camera di Commercio di Firenze, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Comitato dei Partner di Palazzo Strozzi, Intesa Sanpaolo. Premium sponsor: Gucci. With the support of ENEL.