Art Museum exhibit to highlight hip hop’s impact on art, culture

Cincinnati Art Museum will tap into “The Culture” this summer with a new exhibit celebrating hip hop’s decades-long impact and influence on society.

“The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century” explores the transformation of contemporary art and material culture through the collision of hip hop, technology and the marketplace.

A particular focus area is the genre’s role as a platform for cultural expression for Black, Latinx and Afro-Latinx youth, especially during its origins in the mid-1970s.

The multimedia exhibition features work by numerous influential artists – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roberto Lugo, Carrie Mae Weems, William Cordova, Hassan Hajjaj and Hank Willis Thomas, and more – as well as designs by fashion brands such as Gucci, Cross Colours and Vivienne Westwood. There are more than 90 pieces in the collection, including a range of music ephemera.

“The Culture” will be on view from June 28 through Sept. 29.

El Franco Lee II (American, b. 1985), “DJ Screw in Heaven,” 2008, acrylic on canvas, 38 x 48 in. (96.5 x 121.9 cm), Private Collection, Houston, ©El Franco Lee II

“‘Hip Hop didn’t invent anything. It reinvented everything,’” said site-curator Jason Rawls, quoting rap legend Grandmaster Caz.

Rawls has taken his passion for hip hop to the academic level as a leading figure in the study of the genre and an advocate for education about it. Rawls, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University, is working to create a hip hop studies program in OSU’s School of Music and Department of African American & African Studies. 

Prior to OSU, Rawls assisted with the development of the first hip hop-based education program in a college of education at Ohio University in Athens.

“This is what we can share with visitors, this idea of hip hop mentality – using the resources at hand in an innovative way and how this can inform art and culture,” Rawls added.

Exhibit background

The organizers of “The Culture” were the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Overall, the exhibit catalog features contributions from more than 50 artists, writers, scholars, curators and arts leaders.

Hassan Hajjaj (Moroccan, b. 1961), “Cardi B Unity,” 2017/1483 (Gregorian/Hijri) from the series My Rockstars, metallic Lambda on 3 mm dibond in a poplar sprayed-white frame with HH green tea boxes with butterfly,551/4x 40 x 4 in. (140.3 x 101.6 x 10 cm), Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

As part of the programming, the Cincinnati Art Museum plans to host a variety of related events throughout the exhibition’s three-month run, including a pair of artist talks.

CAM will also host a Kids Day on Saturday, Aug. 3 featuring a range of activities, including some focused specifically on the exhibit. The museum will post specific information on its website.

Tickets are $12, with discounted rates for students, children and seniors. Save $2 when purchasing tickets online. Admission is free for members. 

The exhibition will be free for nonmembers every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. as well as during CAM’s Art After Dark experiences the final Friday of every month. It will also be free during the Cincinnati Music Festival weekend from July 25–27 and on CAM Kids Day.

The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century

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