TERENCE GOWER — HAVANA CASE STUDY
September 12, 2017 – January 26, 2018
Havana Case Study was the second in a series of installations that use American diplomatic architecture as a lens through which to analyze US international relations. Based on extensive research in Havana and in US archives, the exhibition examined the US embassy program’s attempt to represent the aspirations of the government and its foreign policy through architecture, and explored how both the function and meaning of embassy buildings have been altered by the US and host governments over the course of their existence. The centerpiece of the exhibition imagined a comprehensive architectural exhibition on the embassy building, as presented in the late 1950s, at the height of the modernization and expansion of Havana. On an enormous tabletop platform at the center of the gallery, the artist framed details from this period in a complex display of architectural models, photographs, and archival documents, and overlaid these views with more recent photographs and newspaper clippings that report on the many uses the building has served—mostly for propaganda purposes—since the Cuban revolution. Installed on the terrace outdoors, Gower’s monumental sculpture Balcony (2016) was a 1:1 scale outline of the ambassador’s balcony—a symbol of diplomatic stalemate and its political and economic fallout. In the rawness of its five interchangeable sections, the sculpture assumed an ambiguous appearance: was it a remnant of a bygone era, or was it under construction, soon to be hoisted triumphantly into place?
Curated by Jacob Proctor
MARK STRAND: COLLAGES
May 24 – June 30, 2017
Mark Strand (1934–2014) was widely recognized as one of the great American poets of his generation. Between 2011 and 2014, he produced a remarkable series of collages using handmade and hand-colored papers that he created in collaboration with master papermaker Sue Gosin. Strand added pigments to a paper blend comprised of linen rag pulp and Abaca pulp to create colored liquid pulps. Working while the base paper was still wet, he "painted" with the colored liquid pulps using brushes, small squirt bottles, and his own hands. This method lends the works their sense of gestural dynamism as well as their chromatic vibrancy. Once the papers were dry, Strand cut and tore them, assembling the pieces into finished collages. Modest in scale and often deceptively simple, the works reward careful and extended looking. Semitransparent layers gradually reveal subtle depth of field, while seemingly casual details coalesce into surprisingly precise compositions.
Lacking an external source or cultural referent, Strand’s collages participate in an aesthetic discourse more closely associated with abstract painting than with collage as it is usually understood. Indeed, Strand described his initial forays into collage as "an escape from making meaning," a shift from a "verbal sense" to a "visual sense," a form of thinking that he regarded as independent of language. But his collages are not entirely unmoored from history or divorced from his poetry. His sensitivity to the possibilities of color can be attributed to the early influence of Josef Albers, with whom he studied at Yale. And his embrace of chance and accident links the collages to the Surrealist tradition that also inspired many of the Abstract Expressionist painters whose works are clear historical antecedents. As Francine Prose noted in a 2013 essay on the collages, while the artist chose not to discuss the relationship himself, "the writing and the visual art are clearly the work of the same person, marked by qualities as unique and recognizable as a fingerprint."
Curated by Jacob Proctor
THE PAST SOLD: CASE STUDIES IN THE MOVEMENT OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL OBJECTS
April 3 – May 12, 2017
Archaeological artifacts are always moving – out of excavation sites, across geopolitical borders, into museums and private collections. This movement can be positive or negative, authorized or unauthorized, legal or illegal. The Past Sold presented contrasting modes of artifact movement: the legal, state-sponsored sale of Early Bronze Age antiquities from Bab adh Dhra’, Jordan, during the late 1970s, and the illegal looting of archaeological sites in Jordan, Iraq, and Syria that continues to this day. The exhibition, which emerged from the Past for Sale research project at the Neubauer Collegium, brought together ceramic pots from the Oriental Institute and the McCormick Theological Seminary, along with unpublished archival documents, maps, photographs, and aerial drone video footage. By calling attention to these materials and the ways they are displayed, The Past Sold invited us to consider new perspectives on the movement and representation of antiquities.
Major support for this exhibition was provided by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago, with additional support from the Oriental Institute, the McCormick Theological Seminary, and DePaul University.
FANTASTIC ARCHITECTURE: VOSTELL, FLUXUS, AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 22 – March 17, 2017
Taking its title and inspiration from the seminal publication Fantastic Architecture (1970), edited by Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins and published by Something Else Press, this exhibition presented various approaches to architecture, urban space, and the built environment within an international community of artists associated with Fluxus and conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. Fantastic Architecture was presented in conjunction with the re-siting, following a major conservation treatment, of Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic (1970), a monumental event-sculpture in the University of Chicago’s Campus Art Collection. The exhibition contextualized Concrete Traffic in relation to Vostell’s other related works from the period, including photomontage proposals for alterations to architectural and urban spaces and event scores for happenings intended for specific cities, as well as the work of his artistic peers and interlocutors. In Europe and the United States alike, the postwar period saw massive transformations of the urban landscape, the construction and expansion of freeway systems, and the rise of automobile culture, and artists of the time responded to these developments in a variety of ways. Like its eponymous exemplar, the exhibition embraced the porousness and intellectual ferment of the experimental art world of the time, a context in which forms and concepts circulated among an international community of artists. The exhibition included works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Douglas Huebler, Allan Kaprow, Shigeko Kubota, Rosemary Mayer, Jim McWilliams, and Wolf Vostell.
Curated by Jacob Proctor
Presented with additional support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.