From October 1, 2015 until July 10, 2016, work by artists Rineke Dijkstra and Marlene Dumas is featured in the exhibition “Reality of My Surroundings: The Contemporary Collection” at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
In celebration of the museum’s 10th anniversary, the Nasher Museum presents some of its most significant works from the contemporary collection. Reality of My Surroundings demonstrates the museum’s ongoing commitment to collecting contemporary work by global artists, with a focus on artists of African descent. The exhibition emphasizes art’s unique role in affecting cultural change and highlights works that address pressing social issues of our day, particularly race, gender, class, immigration and globalization. It includes painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, video and installation.
The exhibition title, “Reality of My Surroundings”, comes from a 1991 album by the pioneering Los Angeles-based band Fishbone. Formed in 1979, the band was known for its sharp social commentary and eclectic style, fusing punk, funk, ska, soul, and hard-edge rock to make music that defied categorization. The 33 artists in this exhibition similarly challenge artistic conventions and provoke thought and dialogue on decisive contemporary themes. Their individual works span four decades and present a broad range of cultural perspectives. Through this exhibition, viewers are invited to consider the complexity of their surroundings and how realities may change over time.
Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work, offering a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale color photographs of young, typically adolescent subjects, recall 17th-century Dutch painting in their scale and visual acuity. The minimal contextual details present in her photographs and videos encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed. Dijkstra often works in series, creating groups of photographs and videos around a specific typology or theme.
Born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa, Marlene Dumas studied at the University of Cape Town before moving to the Netherlands in the late 1970s to study painting and psychology. She continues to live and work in Amsterdam. Since 2008, her work has been represented by David Zwirner. In 2010, she had her first gallery solo exhibition, Against the Wall, which traveled to the Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal. Widely regarded as one of the most influential painters working today, Marlene Dumas has continuously explored the complex range of human emotions, often probing questions of gender, race, sexuality, and economic inequality. Through her focus on the human figure, Dumas merges socio-political themes with personal experience and art-historical antecedents to create a unique perspective on the most salient and controversial issues facing contemporary society. Her work consistently explores constructions of identity and the fluid distinctions between the public and the private.