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Block Offers Five Diverse Exhibitions

November 29, 2005 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- From British and French caricature to early Modern European anatomical studies and children’s notions of the body, the diverse and challenging exhibitions for winter 2006 at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art will highlight the role of the University art museum as a place for the interaction of teaching, scholarship and the community.

The Block Museum will look at the exaggerated and loaded imagery of caricature with “Caricature in London and Paris, ca. 1800-1900,” a group of three exhibitions exploring graphic political and social satire in France and England. One of these exhibitions, “Comic Art: The Paris Salon in Caricature” (Jan. 20 through March 12, Main Gallery), organized by The Getty Research Library, Los Angeles, examines early 19th century caricatures lampooning the French art world, specifically the Salon, the government-sponsored art exhibition. The annual juried show of paintings, sculptures and prints became the main path to public recognition and success for artists, and at the same time, became a popular target of satire in weekly Parisian journals. Teams of graphic artists churned out caricatures poking fun at the Salon, from its dizzying display of thousands of art works to the self-importance of jurors, critics and artists, and the prevailing mediocrity of the works.

Inspired by the “Comic Art,” exhibition, Northwestern University Art History Professor Hollis Clayson and 12 Northwestern University graduate and undergraduate students have assembled two complementary exhibitions. “Philipon’s ‘La Caricature’ (1830–1835) and the Street” (Jan. 20 through March 12, Main Gallery) features caricatures satirizing Parisian public and street life from Charles Philipon’s journal “La Caricature.” The complete accessibility of the street to all of the city’s inhabitants provided the meeting ground for all members of French society and fodder for caricaturists. The second exhibition organized by Clayson and her students, “Political Currents Across the Channel: James Gillray’s Caricatures of France” (Jan. 20 through March 12, Print, Drawing and Photography Study Center), focuses on the British satirist’s take on French politics, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and difficult Anglo-French relationships in the wake of the 1789 French Revolution. A brochure with an introduction by Professor Clayson, essays by her students and illustrations will be available.

Another Northwestern faculty-curated project, “The Anatomy of Gender: Arts of the Body in Early Modern Europe” (Jan. 3 through March 12, Alsdorf Gallery) presents a historical overview of anatomical illustrations from the 16th through 18th centuries, focusing on how the human body’s gender and sexual characteristics were represented in early modern scientific and medical texts. Curated by Lyle Massey, assistant professor of art history at Northwestern, this exhibition shows how despite the rise of modern medicine and a presumed scientific objectivity, anatomists were influenced by the subjective formulations of diverse social, religious and cultural characterizations about gender.

“Anatomy of Gender” includes a variety of two- and three-dimensional anatomical images, from flap sheet anatomies and prints to small-scale sculptured ivory figures with removable organs. An illustrated brochure with essays by Professor Massey and Northwestern art history graduate students will accompany the exhibition, as well as a Web site at <anatomyofgender.northwestern.edu>.

World-renowned video and photography artist Jeanne Dunning, a professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern, investigates the body and constructions of gender and sexuality. The Block Museum will present the premiere of Dunning’s new work, “Making Boys and Girls” (Jan. 20 through March 12, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery). The multimedia installation explores young children’s conceptions of gender differences. Produced in response to a psychological study Dunning read in a scientific journal, the exhibition features video of children aged 3 to 5 assembling “puzzle dolls” with detachable body parts and photographs of the dolls the children made. Professor Dunning will discuss her work during a special talk at the Block Museum at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2. Space is limited; phone (847) 491-4852 for reservations.

“Our winter exhibitions demonstrate how the Block Museum can serve as a conduit to experimental curriculum,” said David Alan Robertson, the Ellen Philips Katz Director of the Block Museum. “The caricature exhibitions and ‘Anatomy of Gender’ present collaborations among faculty, students and the museum that broaden the experience of classroom-based education, while our ‘wired’ Katz Gallery gives faculty member Jeanne Dunning space to present her latest cutting-edge work, ‘Making Boys and Girls.’ Of course, our audiences are also enlightened by the outcomes of these collaborations.”

Related to the Block Museum’s winter exhibitions will be two academic symposia. From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, Professor Massey will gather scholars from the fields of history, art history and science history for the symposium “Anatomy of Gender” to discuss the issues of gender and representation raised by her exhibition. Professor Clayson, in collaboration with Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno, is organizing the symposium “Caricature in the Modern World, 1700–1900,” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, which will feature scholars specializing in theories and origins of caricature.

In keeping with the exploration of the educational roles of a university museum, the Block and the Northwestern department of art theory and practice will present the discussion “Post Post-Studio” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2. Artists Amy Adler, Conrad Baker, Michelle Grabner, Gareth James and Dave McKenzie will discuss the late 20th century art movement that saw artists working in non-traditional media and in close collaborations with art institutions and will address topics raised by the movement.

Free guided tours of the Block Museum’s winter 2006 exhibitions will be held at 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from Jan. 21 through March 12. Reservations are not required.

The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

For more information, including hours and parking information, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-4000.

Topics: Campus Life