Contemporary - Global Perspectives

Jeremiah Quarshie. "Obiribea"

Global Perspectives: Highlights from the Contemporary Collection

October 15, 2019 - May 30, 2021

Global Perspectives: Highlights from the Contemporary Collection is a celebration of global interconnectedness. The Harn’s curators worked together to find shared themes and create conversations from a variety of mediums and perspectives covering Asia, Africa, Europe, and North, Central and South America.

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Global Perspectives celebrates the Harn Museum of Art’s contemporary collection through a wide variety of works spanning the mid-20th century to the present. The exhibition features paintings, prints, photographs, ceramics, mixed media, and video representing artists from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Central America, and the Caribbean. These selections generate visual conversations among a variety of artists, mediums, and perspectives using diverse visual vocabularies. 

Within the exhibition is a section that explores the architecture and energy of urban life in the United States and several European countries. The painting, photographs and prints in this section depict city life up close (streets, bridges, rail yards and waterways) or from dramatic vantage points (dizzying views high above New York City). They hold parallel and contrasting urban themes, from controlled movement to expectant stasis. 

Several artists allude to, or incorporate, cultural and historic motifs, often posing a counterpoint to contemporary ideas and issues. For example, gleaming liquor bottle tops forming Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculpture recall the opulent kente cloth of his native country but are also reminders of the impact of colonialism and global power imbalance. Ethiopian artist Elias Sime’s untitled mixed media piece incorporates materials and found objects from the street and market that serve as symbols of the universal need for food and sustenance.

Tradition remains one of the primary sources of inspiration invigorating contemporary Asian art. Asian artists meaningfully reclaim, revive, or redefine localized and indigenous mediums and visual languages within the context of a global art ecology. The broad approaches and the startling hybridity of their art demonstrate the myriad ties between a seemingly remote past and contemporary expressions. These works are testaments of various forms of transcultural entanglement characterized by these artists’ creative responses to universal themes, such as identity and cultural belonging, globalization and localization, and history and memory.  

Prints by acclaimed artists from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Nicaragua, are, in their essence, political acts. They manifest the poetry, struggle, opposition, and resiliency of daily life in each of these countries, as in the work of Puerto Rican artist Carlos Raquel Rivera, who advocated for full independence for a new Puerto Rico through his explicit depiction of life there in the 1950s.  

Bringing together more than 50 works from around the world, this exhibition allows us as curators to propose new intersections and dialogues. We see resonances across temporal and spatial boundaries, cultures, and artistic genres that illuminate these artists’ global commonalities and accomplishments.

Carol McCusker

Curator of Photography

Jade Powers

Curator of Contemporary Art

Dulce María Román

Chief Curator and Curator of Modern Art

Tongyun Yin

Cofrin Curator of Asian Art

Image credits:

Jeremiah Quarshie (Ghanaian). Obiribea. 2016

Museum Purchase with funds from the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Acquisition Fund

Object number: 2016.69