“Lux et Veritas” by the NSU Art Museum brings a lot of light and truth – Boca Raton | Candle Made Easy

The artists in Lux et Veritas, an exciting exhibition at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, have two things in common. They all graduated from the Yale School of Art from 2000 to 2010 and are all non-white. That these 21 remarkable artists of color traversed this formerly lily-white Ivy League institution is, to some extent, testament to progress in the admissions departments of higher education, even if its arrival was belated.

But as a visitor experience for museum audiences, “Lux et Veritas” (which translates to “Light and Truth,” Yale’s motto) is less a pat on the back for the university and more a group hug between the black and brown artists who worked under his tutelage and their own unique creativity triumphed. This is no superficial commentary: there are profound connections between the exhibition’s earliest precursors and the artists selected towards the end of the exhibition. They supported and inspired each other and that inspiration echoes off the canvases, plinths and screens.

In many cases, these works are created by artists who have experienced struggles—who have experienced otherness—and have deeply integrated those experiences into their practice. There are works in Lux et Veritas inspired by careful reading by Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin that comment on the institutional abuse of black people from Michael Brown to George Floyd. There are pieces rooted in Western European and American art history and others miraculously detached from the white traditions of the classic art canon: Art Year Zero reboots of unlimited possibility.

“The Apostle Peter” by Kehinde Wiley

Since all 21 artists are at the forefront of their fields, there is no usual variation of quality control of a group show; Lux et Veritas consists of the outstanding among the outstanding, with contributions as broad and varied as the African American and immigrant experience itself. It encompasses Kehinde Wiley’s stirring oil paintings, which at once combine the realism of classic portraiture, the poetry of the street and exude the dinginess of 1970s wallpaper. Mickalene Thomas’ October 1950 deconstructs and reinterprets a classic pinup photo of a black model as an almost cubist form, complete with glitter and rhinestones and angular geometry. Wardell Milan’s “Battle Royale” is a series of Dadaist collages of magazine images inserted into vintage photographs of African American boxers, the effect of which suggests the black man’s forced labor to entertain white audiences.

This exhibition is not my first encounter with Wangechi Mutu’s sculptures and certainly not my last; It’s hard to find a 21st century artist more inimitable. “Lux et Veritas” comprises several pieces, including “Seeing Cowries” – a seated figure in whose form the eponymous shells are embedded, and weeping synthetic hair – and “Sentinel”, an earthen, life-size sculpture made of red clay, both of which connect the images that captivate and unsettle at the same time.

“Sentinel” by Wangechi Mutu

Loren Holland, another strikingly original voice, paints paradisiacal scenes invaded by mismatched objects – a Ouija board, a Sprite bottle, a hair dryer – suggesting a paradise polluted by Western consumerism.

In “Lux et Veritas” there are many delightful coincidences in which the artists seem to be conversing, consciously or unconsciously. The array of boom boxes featured in Luis Gispert’s avant-garde live-action/animated film Stereomongerel are steps away from two of William Cordova’s works that focus on vintage audio technology. The most striking of these, Machu Picchu After Dark, is a collection of no fewer than 200 found speakers stacked into a monolith. The speaker’s spherical shapes within rectangles resemble eyes that watch forever from all directions.

If Cordova reinvents the architecture of music distribution, Ronny Quevedo creates Frankenstein music from otherwise well-known compositions. In his “Critical Mass” video, feet dance intentionally unconventionally on a lighted club floor to a surrealistic mashup of KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” fusing two musical “Sounds” around one creating new ones and constantly throwing the listener/viewer off balance.

installation view

There’s no question that contemporary art is still a white-dominated culture, which is why exhibitions like Lux et Veritas are always cause for celebration. As a Caucasian visitor to this community within a community, I appreciated the feeling, rarely experienced in group shows, that I didn’t have a seat at that table – that I had the privilege of entering her place and not vice versa. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Lux et Veritas runs through January 8th at the NSU Art Museum, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $5-$12. Call 954/525-5500 or visit nsuartmuseum.org.

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