“State of the Art” at the Dixon 

Organized by Bentonville, Arkansas, museum Crystal Bridges, "State of the Art" featured 100-plus works from emerging contemporary artists from across the United States. When the exhibition debuts at the Dixon this week, it will have roughly half (about 70) of the works on display.

Among Dixon director Kevin Sharp's favorites is Lenka Clayton's 63 Objects Taken Out of My Son's Mouth. "They're literally installed on the wall. It's just hilarious, but also kind of poignant in its way," Sharp says. "That's a piece I determined long ago had to be in the show."

Others include Shaker, a sculpture of a man extending his hand by Bob Trotman and Ghost of a Dream's End of the Spectrum, a large collage made out of discarded lottery tickets. "It looks like an Oriental rug. It's beautiful," Sharp says.

  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Edward C. Robison III
  • Work byVanessa German

Contemporary shows like "State of the Art" draw people in, Sharp says, because the works speak to the viewer. "People are attracted to the art of our own time," he says. "I've spent my whole career as a specialist of 19th-century art. As a museum visitor, I'm attracted to the new and the things that are expressive of my own era. I think that's true of a lot of people. It's certainly true of younger audiences who are starting to figure out what their personal aesthetics are — the things they want art to say. I think every generation invents the art it needs to make sense of the world."

Sharp says that "State of the Art" is not overtly political, but "There are definitely things in the show that are thought-provoking," such as Vanessa German's Artist Considers the 21st Century Implications of Psychosis as Public Health Crisis or, Critical/Comedic Analysis into the Pathophysiology of Psychosis.

Plus, he says, it's good to shake things up. "Because the Dixon is best known for its 19th-century collection, there's a certain kind of shock of the new that filters through when we do these kinds of projects. We like that. We don't want to become stale or predictable."

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