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“Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew” Opens May 10 at MOCA North Miami

By May 9, 2023No Comments

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA) is thrilled to announce the opening of the groundbreaking exhibition, “Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew,” which showcases the extraordinary work of renowned artist Lonnie Holley. Curated by Adeze Wilford, the exhibition marks the first major exhibition of the Birmingham-born artist in the South and will run from May 10 through October 1, 2023.

“Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew” offers a deep dive into Holley’s remarkable career, spanning across mediums including sculpture, painting, and music. Holley’s passion for inspiring change through art has resulted in an extensive and diverse body of work that explores critical moments in U.S. history, global environmental responsibility, and deeply personal memories.

Holley shares, “My art confronts the past, engages with the present, and inspires change for the future. This exhibition allows me to share my journey and connect with viewers on a meaningful level.”

The exhibition features early sandstone sculptures, recent works on paper, and paintings on vintage quilts, showcasing Holley’s talent for repurposing discarded objects and giving them new life. The faces that permeate many of his works encourage reflection on humanity’s priorities and the privilege of being seen.

Curator Adeze Wilford explains, “Lonnie Holley’s art transforms the overlooked and discarded into profound expressions of beauty and meaning. This exhibition invites viewers to explore his multifaceted artistic identity and witness the transformative power of his works.”

Highlights include “Without Skin/The Water This Time”, which uses found objects, such as firehoses, to represent suppression methods during the Civil Rights Movement. In “Without Skin”, hoses symbolize domestic terror, while “The Water This Time” features a cross that references both the church’s role as a gathering place for Black Americans and the Ku Klux Klan’s intimidation tactics. Another highlight is the captivating “Sandstone Room,” which showcases sculptures made from discarded steel armature casts, silt, and sand. Drawing inspiration from various aesthetic influences, Holley’s sculptures demonstrate his ability to transform discarded objects into meaningful artwork, reminding us of the nation’s past and the progress yet to be made.

“Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew” celebrates Holley’s remarkable talent, artistic evolution, and contributions to modern art history. The exhibition offers a unique and immersive experience, inviting visitors to explore an artist’s practice that confronts American history, engages with personal memoir, and shares an ever-evolving output across various mediums.

A series of programming events will accompany the exhibition, including:

Opening Reception
Wednesday, May 10 at 7 p.m., MOCA will host the highly anticipated opening reception of “Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew,” providing an opportunity to mingle with Lonnie Holley and featured artists from the South Florida Cultural Consortium exhibition. Free with museum admission. Visit the website to RSVP and learn more:

Public Tour
Saturday, May 13 at 11 a.m., guests are invited to register for a public tour of the exhibitions “Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew” and “South Florida Cultural Consortium,” led by Curator of Education Amanda Covach. Free with museum admission. Advanced tickets are required.:

Special Musical Performance by Lonnie Holley
Friday, September 8 at 7-8:30 p.m., visitors will be treated to a mesmerizing musical performance by Lonnie Holley himself in MOCA’s Paradise Courtyard. His improvised music blends diverse influences, creating a unique mix of new and borrowed sounds. While political and experimental, Holley’s work is warm and engaging, inviting audiences into his captivating world. More details to come.

MOCA Makers Workshop led by Lonnie Holley
Saturday, September 9 at 1-3 p.m., MOCA Makers will present a Found Music workshop with Lonnie Holley, inviting participants to create their own “instrument sculpture” using found objects. Guided by the artist himself, attendees will have the opportunity to explore their creativity and delve into the transformative power of art. Stay tuned for more information.

Members of the press are invited to an exclusive press preview on May 10 at 5 – 6 p.m., prior to the opening reception, providing an opportunity to engage with Holley’s artworks, interview the artist and curator, and gain unique insights into the creative process and inspirations behind the exhibition.

For more information about the exhibition, including admission details, opening hours, and additional programming, please visit the MOCA North Miami website at


“Lonnie Holley: If You Really Knew” is made possible with support from Blum & Poe, and is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture. We are also grateful to The N’Namdi Family. Special thanks to guest curator Alison M. Gingeras, for her contributions conceiving this exhibition.

About Lonnie Holley

Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s work is in permanent museum collections throughout the country, on display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.

About the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA)

MOCA North Miami presents contemporary art and its historical influences through exhibitions, educational programs, and collections. Drawing inspiration from surrounding communities, MOCA connects diverse audiences and cultures by offering a welcoming space to discover new ideas and voices, fostering a lifelong appreciation for the arts. MOCA evolved from the Center of Contemporary Art, established in 1981, and moved into its current building designed by Charles Gwathmey of GSNY in 1996, coinciding with the establishment of its permanent collection.


Recently, MOCA refreshed its brand, updating its visual identity and incorporating “NoMi” in the name and logo to emphasize the museum’s enduring partnership with the community and distinguish itself among other MOCAs worldwide. The new brand aims to showcase MOCA’s unique offerings and enhance art, culture, and community experiences for local and international visitors.


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