State of the Art 2020: Locate


This exhibition speaks to the ways artists orient themselves through relationships – either to people or places – and how other artists use their work to locate truths typically hidden from view.

State of the Art is an exploration into how contemporary art – produced all across the country including regions outside traditional art centers – reflects the present moment. It began in 2014, when Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art presented State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, which was seen by 175,000 visitors in Bentonville, Arkansas, before traveling to five additional museums. State of the Art 2020 – featuring a fresh new group of artists selected by a new curatorial team – opened at the Momentary and at Crystal Bridges in February 2020 and is now ready to be experienced across the country.

In its original presentation, State of the Art 2020 displayed more than 100 recent works, by 61 artists working in paintings, sculpture, photography, video, performance, and mixed media. The artists represent a cross-section of makers working in the United States today. To travel to Art Bridges partners, the show has been divided into three different exhibitions of approximately 5,000-8,000 square feet each, called Locate, Record, and Constructs.

How do we locate ourselves? In the rapid pace of our daily, twenty-first-century lives, finding a sense of belonging, grounding, and truth can often be difficult. For some artists in this exhibition, belonging comes in the form of family—the relationships and histories they inherit or form. For others, specific locations (both real and invented) provide the necessary grounding. And still other artists use their work to locate truth behind walls of deception, finding solace in authenticity. In this show, “locate” is both a directive to find context and understanding and a nod to the importance of physical place.

These 20 artists, a group of the 61 artists from the original State of the Art 2020 exhibition, represent a taste of American art created in recent years. The approaches, backgrounds, and details of these artists’ practices vary widely, but the echoes across works and sections of the show speak to broader trends in contemporary art in this country. Reorganized around the theme of “locate,” this focused exhibition invites visitors to consider how these artists put this theme in action.

Families are fluid. They begin, break apart, grow, and drift in unexpected directions. In this section, the artists explore a broad expression of family and the ways that those ties inform who they are. These families range from the smallest duo to the widest networks of relations, offering insights into personal history, origins, memory, and tradition. For some artists, their familial roots can be traced back to a physical place, while for others, the sense of belonging remains more transient. In either case, this system of connections becomes a way of orienting oneself in relation to others.

Identity & Placemaking
Location informs identity. It often determines where we grow up, influences our worldview, and can serve as a source of both pride and disdain. However, no one’s identity is strictly bound by their location. In this section, artists undertake different degrees of world building. Some remain safely rooted in the real world—foregrounding the markers that make a place their own. Others drift into the spectacular, expanding into fantasy in order to reflect on the real. In both cases, location is a key for opening doors into understanding.

Surfaces can be deceiving. In a moment when fake news, misleading marketing, and virtual personas abound, the difference between a headline and the full story can vary drastically. The artists in this section help peel back layers of the world around us, revealing truth, complexity, and realities frequently glossed over on a daily basis. Their works unveil what is hidden from plain view, urging viewers to dig deeper and think harder about their surroundings in order to locate more of the story.

The national tour of State of the Art 2020 is sponsored by Bank of America with additional support from Art Bridges.


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


    Partner Story

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    State of the Art: Locate showcases artworks that interrogate individuals’ relationship with ethnicity, family, and place. The exhibition was on view at the Currier Museum of Art from October 2022 to February 2023.

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