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Mapplethorpe Polaroids and Italian Drawings at Block this Winter

Largely unknown works by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and original drawings from the Prado Museum by Michelangelo and other 16th century masters will be exhibited this winter during two major exhibitions at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

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December 9, 2008 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Largely unknown works by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and original drawings from the Prado Museum by Michelangelo and other 16th century masters will be exhibited this winter during two major exhibitions at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. The museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

The "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" exhibition in the Block Museum's Alsdorf Gallery from Jan. 13 to April 5, explores Robert Mapplethorpe's creative development through his use of instant photography. Mapplethorpe (1946 to 1989) emerged in the late 1970s as one of the most celebrated and controversial photographers of his time. The artist had not shown an interest in photography prior to 1970, when he began to take Polaroids for use in collages. Enthralled by the medium, Mapplethorpe took some 1,500 Polaroids during the next six years, exploring the subjects that would dominate his later work: portraiture, flowers, sexuality and the classical beauty of the human body. The photographs on display in this exhibition are marked by a spontaneity that is inherent to instant photography and unlike the carefully composed images of Mapplethorpe's later, more famous pictures. Featuring more than 90 photographs, "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York. Some of the works in this exhibition may not be suitable for all audiences. To see examples of works in the exhibition, visit http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/exhibitions/future/mapplethorpe.html.

Although separated by centuries and a continent, works in "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" and the Block's second winter exhibition share an appreciation for the human form. "From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado," in the Main Gallery from Jan. 23 to April 5, focuses on artworks from roughly 1520 to 1620, when artists achieved exceptional technical proficiency in figure composition and drawing was used extensively in preparation for multiple types of art, including frescos, prints, tapestries and stained glass. The exhibition features 70 drawings, including two works recently revealed to be figure studies by Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel's "Last Judgment." This exhibition marks the first time that many of these works have traveled outside the walls of Spain's famed Prado Museum since they were bequeathed to the institution in 1931 by Spanish nobleman Pedro Fernández Durán. It is organized and circulated by Art Services International, Alexandria, Va., in association with The Museo del Prado, Madrid. To see examples of works from the exhibition, visit http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/exhibitions/future/prado.html.

The Block Museum is organizing and co-presenting a number of programs to complement its Winter 2009 exhibitions. Unless noted, the following programs will be held at the Block Museum and are open to the public and free of charge.

The Block and Northwestern University's ARTica Studios present "Principles of Drawing," a weekly class taught by artist Lauren Redding, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 28 to March 4.
Class participants will meet at ARTica Studios in Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. The six-session weekly art course will include visits to the Block Museum to view the exhibition "From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado." The cost is $107 for the general public, or $97 for Block Museum members, and Northwestern faculty, staff and students; all materials included. Reservations are required; call (847) 467-7112.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, Suzanne McCullagh, Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searl Curator of Earlier Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, will present "Connoisseurship and Scholarship in Italian Drawings: Two Cogent Collections Compared," a discussion of the exhibitions "From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado" (at the Block Museum from Jan. 23 to April 5) and "Drawn to Drawings: The Goldman Collection" (at the Art Institute through Jan. 18, 2009). McCullagh will speak about the extraordinary collections these exhibitions come from and the scholarship of independent curator Nicholas Turner in cataloguing the holdings and selecting works from them for exhibition.

Families are invited to "Drawing Triptychs" from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22. Recommended for children aged 8 to 12 and their parents, grandparents or caretakers, the program includes a close look at selected drawings from the exhibition "From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado" followed by a studio workshop focusing on three different drawing techniques. Cost is $5 per family of four (free for Block Museum members). Reservations are required; e-mail blockeducation@northwestern.edu.

Block Museum senior curator Debora Wood will lead a gallery talk on the exhibition "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26.

The panel discussion "Robert Mapplethorpe: Artist and Activist" from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 7,
explores the artist's influence on contemporary photography, activism, and discourse on issues of the body and sexuality. Participants include Sylvia Wolf, director of the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, and curator of the exhibition "Polaroids: Mapplethorpe"; Marisa Cardinale, former collections consultant for the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; Jeffrey McCune Jr., assistant professor of American studies and women's studies, University of Maryland; and photographer Catherine Opie. Lane Relyea, assistant professor of art theory and practice, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern, will moderate. A reception will follow the panel discussion. This event is supported by Northwestern's Gender Studies Program and is part of Three American Photographers: In Depth, a series of educational programs at the Block Museum generously sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University.

David Rosand, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University, will present "Things Never Seen: Graphic Fantasy and the Dreaming Draftsman" at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 12.
This program is part of the Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture series organized by the art history department, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University. Rosand also will join other scholars in a panel discussion on Renaissance drawing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 13.

Free guided tours of the Block's Winter 2009 exhibitions will take place at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Jan. 24 to April 5. To organize group and school tours, e-mail blockeducation@northwestern.edu.

Support for "From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado" is provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Chisholm Foundation, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Additional support for the Block Museum's Winter 2009 exhibitions and programs is provided by the Alsdorf Endowment; Alumnae of Northwestern University; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C.; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Istituto Italiano di Cultura; and Myers Foundations.

Admission to the exhibitions is free. For more information and directions, phone (847) 491-4000 or visit the Block Museum Web site at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.