The organizers of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “American Memory” exhibit pose a bold question in their curatorial statement: “Can a single image tell us a complex, multifaceted story or expose the truth of a historical incident?”
“American Memory” doesn’t attempt to provide a pat answer to that question. What it does do – through a sprawling group show that spans time periods, genres and mediums – is examine how artworks can shape our memories and our collective understanding of events.
Many of the artists featured in the exhibit are women or people from the BIPOC or LGBTQ communities. That’s no accident. These people have historically been excluded from major museum collections. And even today they’re still largely underrepresented – which means that their stories often go untold.
A single show can’t 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 show is organized into three chapters, or discrete exhibits that can be viewed on their own or as a part of a larger whole. The first two are on view through Oct. 31 and Dec. 5, respectively. The third will run Oct. 1-Jan. 16. Visit mam.org for more info.