press release

Huckleberry Finn is the final show in a trilogy of Wattis Institute exhibitions based on canonical American novels. In 2008, The Wizard of Oz revealed layers of political symbolism and escapism in L. Frank Baum's famous book, and in 2009, Moby-Dick delved into Herman Melville's depiction of an epic struggle between good and evil. These investigations of America and its realities through the lens of literature by means of artworks, artifacts, and historical documents are unique to the Wattis Institute.

2010 marks the 125th anniversary of the first publication of Mark Twain's book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the 100th anniversary of the author's passing. At its most elementary level, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn chronicles the adventures of a boy, Huck, and his loyal friend, Jim, as they raft down the Mississippi River. On a deeper level, the narrative provides an intimate look at a young boy's self-education, a moving argument for racial equality, and a biting social critique of the time in which Twain was writing. The novel is counted as one of the most important works of American literature, yet it still tops the banned-book list for its use of racial slurs, revealing that its underlying issues of intolerance and racism are still sensitive ones in our society.

This exhibition features the work of 36 artists, including 15 new commissions by artists such as Kara Walker, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Tim Lee, and the West Coast premiere of the newly restored 1920 silent film Huckleberry Finn. Additional historical artifacts and artworks help develop a portrait of the American South and African American life in the time of slavery, while contemporary artworks reflect upon some of the themes of the book that still resonate - and unsettle - today.

A full-color catalog will be available in December 2010, its design based on the 1885 Charles L. Webster and Company first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It will include an essay by the scholar and curator Maurice Berger and photographs of the artworks in the exhibition, including the new commissions.

Huckleberry Finn

Künstler: Edgar Arceneaux, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Jamal Cyrus, Emory Douglas, Thomas Edison, Geoffrey Farmer, Simon Fujiwara, Ellen Gallagher, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rodney Graham, David Hammons, Clementine Hunter, Edward W. Kemble, Dorothea Lange, Tim Lee, Henry Lewis, Glenn Ligon, Pare Lorentz, Jason Meadows, Kristen Morgin, Thomas Nast, Kirsten Pieroth, Horace Pippin, Betye Saar, Ben Shahn, Yinka Shonibare, Allison Smith, Alec Soth, William Desmond Taylor, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol