When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South queries the category of “outsider” art in relation to contemporary art and black life. Situating itself within current art historical and political debates, the exhibition considers work by self-taught, spiritually inspired and incarcerated artists, alongside other projects based in performance, socially engaged practice and the archive, as well as painting, drawing, sculpture and assemblage, that make insistent reference to place. With the majority of work having been made between 1964 and 2014, the exhibition brings together a group of thirty-five intergenerational American artists who share an interest in the U.S. South as a location both real and imagined. Moving between a graphic sensibility, an interest in creation myths and the use of found materials and detritus, the artists reference various classical tropes of blackness as sites of origin—fantastical and performed, important yet perhaps illusory. The catalogue includes entries by the exhibition's organizer, Assistant Curator Thomas J. Lax, along with leading scholars Horace Ballard, Katherine Jentleson, Scott Romine and Lowery Stokes Sims, who write on notions of spirituality, the ethics of self-taught art and the idea of the South in the American project.
Artists in the exhibition include Benny Andrews, Kevin Beasley, McArthur Binion, Beverly Buchanan, Henry Ray Clark, Courtesy the Artists, Thornton Dial, Minnie Evans, Theaster Gates, Deborah Grant, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Bessie Harvey, David Hammons, Lonnie Holley, Frank Albert Jones, Lauren Kelley, Ralph Lemon, Kerry James Marshall, Rodney McMillian, Joe Minter, J.B. Murray, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Marie “Big Mama” Roseman, Jacolby Satterwhite, Patricia Satterwhite, Rudy Shepherd, Xaviera Simmons, Georgia Speller, Henry Speller, James “Son” Thomas, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Geo Wyeth.