What does the New York native and filmmaker Spike Lee have in common with Chicago’s rising artist Nina Chanel Abney? Despite differences in medium, Abney and Lee’s work share aesthetic similarities. They both share a wit that allows them to provide social commentary on rather controversial issues without compromising a style that is uniquely their own. Though their methods never go uncriticized, both creatives infuse comedy in their telling of the tragedy of race relations in the United States. As a result, Lee and Abney have been able to captivate audiences solely on this provocation.
For this reason, the Program in Arts of the Moving Image and the Nasher Museum of Art co-sponsored the inclusion of Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1990) in the Nasher Film Series. On March 15, museum visitors watched the screening of the Academy Award nominated movie at the Nasher Museum of Art and proceeded to view Abney’s “Royal Flush.”
Nasher director of engagement and marketing Wendy Hower hopes that the free movie screenings will attract new visitors to the museum and engage visitors with the “Royal Flush” exhibition. The exhibition is Abney’s first solo showcase including thirty paintings, watercolors, collages and even a mural.
Specifically, Hower believes that the “Do the Right Thing” screening is especially pertinent given today’s racial climate.
“I find that the film is still relevant,” Hower said. “Unfortunately, this is because there has not been a lot of progress since the film’s debut in the early ‘90s.”
“Do the Right Thing” is one of several films that is included in the Nasher Film Series. Starting in Feb. and ending in July 2017, the Nasher Film Series aims to complement Abney’s “Royal Flush” exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art. Co-curated by Ryan Helsel, the K-12 and Family Programs Educator at the Nasher Museum, featured film titles include Ava Duvernay’s “13th” (2016), Sacha Jenkin’s “Fresh Dressed” (2015) and Dee Rees’s “Pariah” (2011). All of the curated films aim to raise awareness and impart knowledge concerning black American issues such as mass incarceration and homophobia within the black community. These topics are also addressed in Abney’s artistic work.
“We are so excited to introduce this important young artist to wider audiences,” said Marshall N. Price and Nancy Hanks, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and curator of the exhibition. “In her monumental paintings, Abney takes on some of the most pressing issues today from racial dynamics and criminal justice to consumerism and celebrity culture. Her seductive visual language is comprised of a jumble of figures, words and shapes to the point of information overload. With this as her backdrop, Abney creates paintings that explore some of the deeper recesses of human nature.”
Hower suggests that student visitors lend a day to extending their knowledge about the black American experience by spending a few hours watching a film and viewing the accompanying exhibition. If one gets hungry during the visit, she reminds that the Nasher Cafe continues to serve Duke students on food points until 4 p.m.
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