In an unstable world chance events can seem to threaten our claims to self-determination. Yet in the early 20th century avant-garde artists embraced chance as a primary compositional principle. This fall the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will present Chance Aesthetics, a major loan exhibition examining the use of chance in modern art, from found objects and splattered paint to musical scores composed with the flip of a coin.
Chance Aesthetics is the first of four major exhibitions slated for the 2009-10 academic year. Also opening in the fall will be Metabolic City, which explores visionary concepts by three internationally known groups of architects and artists: the Japanese Metabolists; the British collective Archigram; and the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys, an early member of the Situationist International.
“While these two exhibitions are very different, their pairing reveals some parallel themes,” says Sabine Eckmann, director and chief curator of the Kemper Art Museum. “For example, the use of play and explorations of the unconscious evident in the Surrealist games in Chance Aesthetics finds a new manifestation in the ludic urban landscapes envisioned by architects and artists in Metabolic City.
“In addition, to varying degrees both exhibitions investigate the use of biology and nature in practice and design,” Eckmann adds. “Chance Aesthetics looks at ways in which artists variously tapped into the flow of natural processes as a method of ceding an element of artistic control, while Metabolic City investigates how architects explored the conceptual influence of biological processes on urban design.”
In Spring 2010 Eckmann will curate Sharon Lockhart — Lunch Break. Lockhart, a conceptual artist known for exploring the relationship between film and still photography, spent a year documenting midday breaks at the Bath Iron Works, a major shipyard located in Bath, Maine. The exhibition will include two films: Lunch Break, which consists of a single slow-moving tracking shot down a long interior corridor, and EXIT, in which a static camera captures workers as they leave the grounds. Also on view will be three series of photographs, focusing on workers’ lunch boxes, group portraits and independent vendors catering to shipyard employees.
Also opening in Spring 2010 will be a solo exhibition by Allison Smith, the Kemper Art Museum’s inaugural Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist. Known for large-scale, often performative installations exploring the cultural phenomenon of historical reenactment, Smith critically engages the conventions of craft to investigate such issues as the relationship between history, social activism, and national and individual identities. To prepare the exhibition Smith will work with faculty and students in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts during the fall semester.
Support for Kemper Art Museum exhibitions is provided by James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and Museum members.
MILDRED LANE KEMPER ART MUSEUM
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Today it boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States.
The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Tuesdays.
For updates and additional information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
2009-10 EXHIBITION SCHEDULE
September 18, 2009, to January 4, 2010
Chance Aesthetics Curated by Meredith Malone Assistant curator, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Since the early 20th century avant-garde artists have investigated the creative possibilities of chance and its attendant release of authorial intent, which they champion both as an attack on logic and reason and as a counterpoint to more officially sanctioned aesthetic tastes. Yet in practice artistic subjectivity is never entirely ceded. Chance Aesthetics explores the use of chance as a key modernist compositional principle along with a variety of specific strategies, ranging from dripping or flinging paint, to the progressive decay of organic materials, to the composition of musical scores through the flip of a coin. The exhibition features more than sixty artworks by more than thirty seminal artists from Europe and the United States, including Jean Arp, George Brecht, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Ellsworth Kelly, Alison Knowles, François Morellet, Robert Morris, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Dieter Roth, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Tanguy and many others.
Metabolic City Curated by Heather Woofter Assistant professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Metabolic City explores visionary concepts by three internationally known groups of architects and artists: the British collective Archigram; the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys, an early member of the Situationist International; and the Japanese Metabolists, whose members include Fumihiko Maki, architect of the Kemper Art Museum. Active during the 1960s, all three groups viewed city infrastructure as the basis for social interaction and individual freedom, yet employed distinct — and remarkably prescient — approaches to developing utopian urban ecologies. Included are original plans, drawings and other archival materials, as well as digital and analog case studies developed by students in the Sam Fox School.
February 5 to April 19, 2010
Sharon Lockhart — Lunch Break Curated by Sabine Eckmann Director and chief curator, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Sharon Lockhart is a conceptual artist whose formally rigorous films and photographs both highlight and create new associations between the two mediums while also engaging the lives of those portrayed. In Lunch Break, her most recent series, Lockhart observes the activities of workers at the Bath Iron Works, a major shipyard and U.S. Navy supplier located in Bath, Maine, focusing on daily routines such as the midday break and the end of the work shift. The exhibition includes two filmic installations, Lunch Break and EXIT, in which slow-moving and static cameras subtly capture worker’s rhythms and movements. Meanwhile three sets of photographs — lunch boxes, group portraits and independent vendors working within the shipyard — reveal a quiet humanism as well as cinematic qualities of staging and casting. Taken together, these projects reflect very particular, yet foundational, aspects of American culture that typically escape our media-saturated attention.
Freund Visiting Artist: Allison Smith Curated by Lauren Adams Assistant professor of painting, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Allison Smith’s often large-scale installations draw on well-known and popular U.S. historical sites, “living history” museums and Civil War battle reenactments to explore the conventions of craft and their role in constructing national identity. At the same time, her work refigures the relationship between the often invisible identities of marginalized groups and viewers’ collective role in shaping politics and history. As the inaugural Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Smith will prepare a spring exhibition for the Kemper Art Museum while visiting campus during the fall semester, during which time she also will work with Washington University faculty and graduate students.