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Philbrook to Open Exhibition Confronting Racial Violence in Tulsa and America

From the Limitations of Now Opens March 14, 2021

TULSA, OK., February 16, 2021 — Today we stand at a moment of reckoning. Iconic Oklahoma author Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) believed that through art and literature “we are able to free ourselves from the limitations of today.” Inspired by Ellison’s words and bringing together work by local artists and an intergenerational group of artists who have never before shown in Oklahoma, From the Limitations of Now examines America’s past and envisions change in the country’s future. The exhibition will be on view March 14 through September 5, 2021.

For the first time in Philbrook’s history, the exhibition will span the Museum’s Helmerich and historic Villa galleries, juxtaposing contemporary art with objects in the Philbrook permanent collection, from the Renaissance to the 21st century. These artworks reflect on American history, honoring those who challenged racial violence across America, and speculate on visions of a future still yet to be.

The exhibition is curated by Sara O’Keeffe, Nancy E. Meinig Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and developed in collaboration with exhibition partners The Black Wall Street Times, Fulton Street Books & Coffee, and Tri-City Collective.

“Art can spark important dialogues about our country and our role in shaping its future,” said Sara O’Keeffe.  “This exhibition features vibrant multi-media works—painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, photography, video, music, performance, and even a large-scale mural—by artists who ask us to see our past more fully and imagine daring transformation across the country.”

The artists in From the Limitations of Now engage deeply with American history and the project of world-building. The majority of artwork in the exhibition is new, produced in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and uprisings across the country in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless Black lives. Artists premiering new work include Adrian Aguilera, Serae Avance, Black Moon, Lex Brown, Crystal Z. Campbell, Rahim Fortune, Lonnie Holley, Betelhem Makonnen, Troy Michie, Joanne Petit-Frère, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Tyler Thrasher.

As Tulsa approaches the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Faith Ringgold’s iconic 1972 print United States of Attica will be restored to its original intention: serving as an interactive map for visitors to commemorate Americans who faced violence as they attempted to resist oppression. Visitors will be invited to follow Ringgold’s instructions and update the map with historic events that are missing, noting all that has taken place since the work was first produced nearly fifty years ago. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is listed near the center of the map, placing Tulsa’s history within the broader context of America.

“As we observe the centennial of the tragedy of 1921, we must confront the many issues with racism that remain,” said Philbrook President/CEO Scott Stulen. “As a museum, it is our role to speak to the relevant issues in our community, have difficult conversations, examine our shared history and find ways to build a better future. From the Limitations of Now is one part of an ongoing effort, not tied to a single occasion or a moment in time, but a commitment to change throughout the organization, from the gallery walls to the boardroom.”

Part of this exhibition includes transforming the Helmerich Gallery (the Museum’s largest gallery space) into an “Idea Lab” with an active reading room developed in collaboration with Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, founder of Fulton Street Books & Coffee, a powerful new mural by the Tulsa-based artist collective Black Moon, vibrant prints by Tulsa photographer Serae Avance, and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.

As part of a year-long partnership with Tri-City Collective, the group will present an installation in the historic Villa based around Tulsa poet Quraysh Ali Lansana’s forthcoming book, Those Who Stayed: Life in 1921 Tulsa after the Massacre. Featuring new artwork by Tulsa-based artists Skip Hill and Patrick McNicholas, the installation examines a range of topics, including the powerful role Black-owned newspapers in Oklahoma played—and continue to play—in challenging injustices across the state.

The exhibition will also invite visitors to spend time with articles from The Black Wall Street Times about the historic figures and events referenced in the exhibition. “Seeing art that’s more reflective of every member in our local society is indicative of how far we’ve come; furthermore, it says something about the institution—that this institution is willing to push the needle toward inclusion,” says Nehemiah D. Frank, founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. “It says that it’s unafraid to push the boundaries and make some uncomfortable. The goal is to make people think, gain compassion; so we can be a better society.”

Participating Artists

Serae Avance (b. 1993, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Adrian Aguilera (b. 1981, Monterrey, Mexico; Lives and works in Austin, Texas)
Black Moon (founded 2018):
Melody Allen (b. 1992, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Aunj Braggs (b. 1990, Hot Springs, Arkansas; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Beth Henley (b. 1983, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Tina Henley (b. 1987, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Erica Martez (b. 1985, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Gary Mason (nosamyrag) (b. 1985, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Alexander Tamahn (b. 1985, Fort Worth, Texas; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Summer Washington (b. 1994, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Leonardo Benzant (b. 1972, Brooklyn; Lives and works in New York)
Lex Brown (b. 1989, Oakland, California; Lives and works in Philadelphia)
Crystal Z. Campbell (b. 1980, Prince George’s County, Maryland; Lives and works in Oklahoma City) 
Dominic Chambers (b. 1993, St. Louis, Missouri; Lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut)
Rahim Fortune (b. 1994, Austin, Texas; Lives and works in Austin, Texas)
Skip Hill (b. 1961, Padre Island, Texas; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Lonnie Holley (b. 1950, Birmingham, Alabama; Lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia)
Kahlil Joseph (b. 1981, Seattle, Washington; Lives and works in Los Angeles)
Betelhem Makonnen (b. 1972, Addis Adeba, Ethopia; Lives and works in Austin, Texas)
Patrick McNicholas (b. 1990, Muskogee, Oklahoma; Lives and works in Tulsa)
Troy Michie (b. 1985, El Paso, Texas; Lives and works in New York)
Arcmanoro Niles (b. 1987, Washington D.C.; Lives and works in New York)
Joanne Petit-Frère (b. 1987, New York; Lives and works in New York)
Kameelah Janan Rasheed (b. 1985, East Palo Alto, California; Lives and works in New York)
Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, New York; Lives and works in New York)
Betye Saar (b. 1926, Los Angeles; Lives and works in Los Angeles)
Elizabeth Talford Scott (b. 1916, Chester, South Carolina; d. 2011, Baltimore, Maryland)
Tyler Thrasher (b. 1993, Tulsa; Lives and works in Tulsa)


Support for From the Limitations of Now is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Flint Family Foundation, and donors to Philbrook’s Exhibition Series. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

About Philbrook Museum of Art

At Philbrook Museum of Art, we are committed to being Tulsa’s most welcoming and engaging cultural institution. Through bold action and strategic investment, we create a space for new ideas, diverse stories and perspectives, and social connection. Housed in the former Midtown home (built 1927) of Genevieve and Waite Phillips, the Philbrook Collection has grown to over 14,500 objects with a focus on American, Native American, and European art. Serving over 160,000 visitors annually, Philbrook shines a light on Tulsa’s storied and complex past while building a diverse and creative vision of the city’s future.