Dread Scott in Then Is Now in Contemporary Black Art in America

The Bruce Museum

Then Is Now: Contemporary Black Art in America explores how Black artists of our time critically engage with the past and present. Over generations, these artists observe how individual and collective histories inform a present understanding of identity, memory, and heritage. The exhibition begins with works made in or around 1968 and culminates with examples made as recently as 2021, encompassing historical legacies of slavery, the era of the Civil Rights Movement, and the racial reckonings of the present day. Other works showcase artistic approaches to personal and familial histories or take up the history of art, revealing how artists reimagine art-historical precedents in order to subversively center Black experiences and narratives. The gallery is anchored by Hank Willis Thomas’s text-based lenticular piece Then Is Now (2017). As the text shifts along with the viewer’s perspective, Thomas’s conceptual intervention invites us to contemplate the pictorial constructs of past and present that are at the heart of this presentation.

April 2, 2023