The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Arts Beyond Bling: Voices of Hip-Hop in Art is the first exhibition to take a focused look at the work of ten artists who all operate within and are informed by hip-hop culture. All of the work displayed has been produced within the first decade of the new millennium, providing a snapshot of what is happening in art at this moment. The artists here cannot and should not simply be pigeonholed as hip-hop artists because there is no single way to define that term. They are a diverse mix of African American, Latino/a, Japanese American, British, Caucasian, gay, male and female. Hip-hop’s appeal, today, comes from this diversity and inclusiveness. Like all of us, these artists live in a world infused with hip-hop flavors.
Last fall, curator Matthew McLendon created and taught a unique graduate level course that paralleled the exhibition for Florida State University Art History students. Beyond Bling: The Influence of Hip-Hop Culture in Contemporary Art Practice focused on the detailed preparation involved with mounting a major museum exhibition and examined the contemporary cultural movement known as Hip-Hop. Class meetings occurred both at FSU’s main campus and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Students observed real world problem solving and learned about each stage of the process from professionals as they toured the museum complex. “Working with Dr. McLendon was probably one of the highlights of my graduate program. To find a professor who is so supportive and considerate of their student’s thoughts and works is truly a diamond in the rough. That is something I can say I felt from the entire Art History Department at Florida State, but especially in Dr. McLendon. Moreover, his interests toward the influences of hip hop in the Beyond Bling project touch on a voice present within American culture, but often unheard. Having had such a strong influence on my own personal life, it was really nice to see how artists of our recent generations have explored the permeating subject of Hip Hop within our world, particularly as Dr. McLendon has helped it come to life in this new show at the Ringling,” said masters candidate Amanda A. Robinson.
“Generous with his time and comments, Dr. McLendon was always willing to give guidance and advice on questions that arose during the research process. He was open and enthusiastic on the scholastic theses and arguments that emerged from such intense examination of the subject matter,” commented Mery-Et Lescher, “I was lucky enough to be selected by Dr. McLendon as the summer Curatorial intern to help with the opening of the exhibition, Beyond Bling. This opportunity allowed me to see the final steps taken by all departments in premiering a major exhibition, including participation by the Events department, who created an incredible experience that appealed to multiple demographics of museum patrons. The visual exhibition of Hip-Hop was augmented by performances of music, dance, drama, and community projects, showing the diversity of the Ringling organization in support of the art venue. Response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Beyond Bling: Voices of Hip-Hop in Art runs May 21 through August 14, 2011 at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art