The organizers of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “American Memory” exhibit ask a bold question in their curatorial statement: “Can a single image tell us a complex and multifaceted story or expose the truth of a historical incident?”
“American Memory” does not attempt to provide a categorical answer to this question. What it does – through a sprawling group exhibit that spans time periods, genres, and mediums – is to examine how works of art can shape our memories and our collective understanding of events.
Many of the artists presented in the exhibition are women or people from the BIPOC or LGBTQ communities. It is not a coincidence. These people have historically been excluded from major museum collections. And even today, they are still vastly under-represented, which means their stories often go unrecorded.
One show cannot right centuries of wrongs. But it can begin to reframe the story we tell ourselves about our world and our place in it. And that’s a start.
The exhibit is organized into three chapters, or separate exhibits that can be viewed on their own or as part of a larger ensemble. The first two are visible until October 31 and December 5, respectively. The third will take place from October 1 to January 1. 16. Visit mam.org for more information.