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Northwestern Visual Arts in January

Block Museum, Dittmar Gallery, University Library greet 2014 with new exhibitions

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January 9, 2014 | by Judy Moore
“The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” revisits a moment in American history when a group of artists embraced the concept of “art as a social weapon,” and dedicated their practice to activism.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro will help celebrate the re-opening of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.

Closed late last summer, the Block Museum re-opens with an exhibition about American radical art from 1929 to 1940, and a show exploring and comparing the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol.

The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” in the Block’s Main Gallery, Jan. 17 through June 22, 2014, revisits a moment in American history when a group of artists embraced the concept of “art as a social weapon,” and dedicated their practice to activism. “Steichen| Warhol: Picturing Fame,” in the Alsdorf Gallery, Jan. 17 through April 6, examines the photographs of Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987), artists who shaped our vision of celebrity, fame and glamour. For more, visit the Block Museum or call (847) 491-4000.

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery re-opens Jan. 10 through Feb. 9 with Baltimore-based artist Amanda Burnham’s room-size installation “HUB.” Burnham’s wall-size drawing installations, created on-site, are inspired by her encounters with American city landscapes. For more information, contact the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit the Dittmar Gallery.  

Northwestern University Library’s two new University Library winter 2014 exhibitions: “Two Degrees and You: An NU Approach to Climate Change,” Jan. 13 through March 21, highlights the approaches of Northwestern researchers to shed light on global climate patterns in the mid- to late 20th-century. “Ancient Monuments of Rome: Reconstructions by the Students of the Academie Francaise de Rome,” Jan. 6 through June 20, 2014, Deering Library, Third Floor Lobby, is drawn from holdings from Northwestern’s McCormick Library of Special Collections that were selected by art history professor David Van Zanten. It illustrates how archeological reconstruction changed and improved over time. For more information, visit the Northwestern University Library or call (847) 491-7658.

In addition, internationally known Italian light artist Marco Rotelli will brighten the façade of Northwestern University’s Deering Library with one of his outdoor signature illuminations from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 through Friday, Jan. 17. Two related theatrical and poetry performances that will take place inside Deering Library from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 and Thursday, Jan. 16, will be followed by hot chocolate and popcorn.

DEPARTMENT OF ART THEORY AND PRACTICE

The department of art theory and practice at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences will offer free public lectures by visiting artists throughout the academic year. For more, visit the department of art theory and practice.

ONE BOOK ONE NORTHWESTERN

One Book One Northwestern has scheduled film screenings, themed dinner/panel discussions and more during the 2013-14 academic year. All are free and many are open to the public. For information, visit One Book One Northwestern.

MARY AND LEIGH BLOCK MUSEUM OF ART 

Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the Evanston campus. Admission to the Block Museum programs listed below is free, unless noted. The museum is closed on Monday. For more information, visit the Block Museum or call (847) 491-4000.

BLOCK MUSEUM ART WINTER 2014 EXHIBITIONS

“The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” in the Block Museum’s Main Gallery, Jan. 17 through June 22, 2014, explores the work and philosophy of visual artists in the John Reed Club (JRC), who joined forces to form a “left front” with writers and intellectuals dedicated to making socially-conscious art. Artists who belonged to or exhibited with the JRC include Rockwell Kent, William Gropper, Stuart Davis and Morris Topchevsky, who embraced the motto “art as a social weapon.” “The Left Front” is the first exhibition to examine the artistic legacy of the JRC and its successor organization, the American Artists’ Congress (AAC). The exhibition considers Chicago’s industrial legacy, ethnic neighborhoods, historical associations with anarchism and labor unrest, and commitment to social reform through institutions like Hull House. To view a slideshow, visit the Block Museum.

“Steichen| Warhol: Picturing Fame,” in the Block Museum’s Alsdorf Gallery, Jan. 17 through April 6. Organized by the Block Museum, this is the first exhibition to compare the work of Steichen and Warhol side by side. It examines the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987) two artists who shaped the visions and imaginations of generations of Americans through their iconic images of celebrities, fashion and popular culture. In the 1920s and 1930s, Steichen’s portraits of actors, writers, musicians, politicians, models and socialites for Vanity Fair and Vogue elevated his subjects (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eugene O’Neill, Ethel and John Barrymore and others) to iconic status. Fifty years later, Warhol borrowed and subverted that language of celebrity in photographs of his friends and patrons. “Steichen ǀ Warhol” is drawn primarily from the Block’s collection and highlights two major gifts to the museum -- 49 vintage Steichen prints donated by Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and his wife, Mimi Schapiro, and more than 150 Warhol photographs from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. To view a slideshow, visit the Block Museum.  

“WORK PRINT PROTEST REPEAT” exhibition, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery, Jan. 17 to March 16. This companion exhibition to “The Left Front” was organized by students in Northwestern art history professor Christina Kiaer’s “Radical Art in the 1930s” course. Selected from the Block Museum’s permanent collection, the work on view juxtaposes prints by Great Depression-era activist artists with prints by more contemporary political artists to explore the change in protest imagery over time.

The Block’s winter exhibitions and programs are supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, as well as the Terra Foundation on behalf of William Osborn and David Kabiller, the Myers Foundations and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Additional funding comes from the Carlyle Anderson Endowment, the Alsdorf Gallery Endowment, the Norton S. Walbridge Fund, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Louise E. Drangsholt Fund, the Kessel Fund at the Block Museum, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

BLOCK MUSEUM JANUARY 2014 EVENTS

Block Museum winter exhibition opening day program at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. After welcoming remarks by Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, scholar and theorist W.J.T. Mitchell will talk about the relations between art and activism, using images from the winter exhibitions. Following his presentation, Mitchell will interview the exhibition curators. Pop-up performances, in collaboration with Northwestern University Professor D. Soyini Madison, will animate the galleries.

Warnock lecture with Robert Bagley, “Styles, Periods and the Life Cycle of the Goblin,” 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22. Robert Bagley, professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University, will argue that conventional categorizations of art have “no more reality than goblins.”

Interdisciplinary gallery talk, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30. Northwestern University’s Nick Davis, associate professor of English; Mary Poole, Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the department of theatre; and Beth Corzo-Duchardt, adjunct lecturer in the department of radio/television/film, will discuss the “Steichen|Warhol” exhibition.

Art, Theory and Practice Visiting Artist Talk with Brian Holmes, “Cross the Threshold: Art into Precarious Life,” 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31. Chicago-based cultural critical Brian Holmes asks, if “relational aesthetics” was a password to the exhibition circuit in the boom economy, how can the bust generation respond to the avant-garde call for the overcoming of art?

CONSTRUCTION ALERT 

A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has limited access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit the Block Museum

DITTMAR MEMORIAL GALLERY

The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The gallery focuses on ethnic cultural art, art by emerging artists, art by or about women, artwork by Northwestern art students and traveling art shows. For more information, visit the Dittmar Gallery.  

DITTMAR GALLERY JANUARY 2014 EXHIBITION 

“HUB” by Amanda Burnham, Jan. 10 through Feb. 9, Dittmar Gallery. Burnham’s site-specific room-size installation calls attention to the ever-changing composition of American cityscapes and their simultaneously beautiful and discordant attributes. Using various types of paper and thick black paint, her massive three-dimensional drawings will allude to both Northwestern and Evanston. The exhibition and an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, are free and open to the public.

UNIVERSITY LIBRARY WINTER 2014 EXHIBITIONS

Exhibitions at Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, are open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Members of the Northwestern community with a valid WildCARD can visit during all open library hours. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Northwestern University Library or call (847) 491-7658.

Two Degrees and You: An NU Approach to Climate Change,” Jan. 13 through March 21, 2014, University Library, Main Level. Northwestern University is home to vast book, map, digital and archival resources that explore and respond to climate change. This exhibit highlights Northwestern researchers’ approaches to climate change through science, innovative engineering, student initiatives and strategic imperatives to reduce greenhouse gases and develop clean energies.

“Ancient Monuments of Rome: Reconstructions by the Students of the Academie Francaise de Rome,” Jan. 6 through June 20, 2014, Deering Library, Third Floor Lobby. From the time of the French Revolution to the beginning of the 20th century, the French architecture student winners of the Grand Prix scholarship to study at the French Academy in Rome were obliged to produce reconstructions of an ancient monument. In the 1870s, a half-dozen of the best and most interesting of these were engraved and published by the French government at great expense. This display, drawn from Northwestern’s McCormick Library of Special Collections by art history professor David Van Zanten, illustrates how such an archeological reconstruction have changed conceptions and techniques.

SPECIAL DEERING LIBRARY OUTDOOR ART INSTALLATION

Outdoor art installation by Italian light artist Marco Rotelli, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13 through Friday, Jan. 17, Deering Library, Northwestern University, Evanston campus. Rotelli, an internationally known Italian light artist, will bathe the façade of Deering Library with one of his signature illuminations during five of the darkest and gloomiest evenings of the year. For his creation, Rotelli took inspiration from the famous Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” and its refrain “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light.” The light installation will celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over the forces of cold and melancholy with lines from Shakespeare, Dante, Dickinson and others projected onto the Deering’s soaring façade. On Jan. 13 and Jan. 16, a special program related to the illumination will take place inside the library from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Members of the acting faculty and students from Northwestern’s department of theatre -- under the direction of Linda Gates, the department’s head of voice -- will perform passages from plays and poems chosen to provide an antidote against the darkness, cold and dank of winter. Following the performance, hot chocolate and popcorn will be served in the Gothic halls of Deering Library. For more information visit the article, "Outdoor Art Installation Lights Up Deering Library."