Corinne Wasmuht, Llangancuo Falls, 2008. Oil on wood, 117 ¼ x 153 ½”. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase with funds from the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation, 2011. From the exhibition Precarious Worlds: Contemporary Art from Germany. Hi-res image available upon request.
The world today feels increasingly globalized and interconnected, yet also increasingly precarious, as old certainties — historical, ideological and material — give way to ever-present threats of climate change, economic collapse and terrorism. Nowhere is this more true than Germany, where the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall have unleashed unprecedented levels of mobility, migration and hybridization between cultures, groups and individuals.
This fall, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present Precarious Worlds: Contemporary Art from Germany, an exhibition exploring various aesthetic strategies through which artists mediate conditions of instability and fragility. Showcasing a group of important new acquisitions — made possible by a generous gift from the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation — the exhibition features large-scale works by Franz Ackermann, Thomas Demand, Sergej Jensen and Corinne Wasmuht, among others, as well as pieces already in the museum collection by Michel Majerus, Manfred Pernice and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Opening Sept. 9, Precarious Worlds is the first of four major contemporary exhibitions slated for the 2011-12 academic year. Also opening in the fall will be Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific, which highlights a group of visionary and experimental projects by the internationally acclaimed artist. Drawing inspiration from clouds, bubbles, spider webs and other ephemeral natural structures, Saraceno’s gravity-defying installations both capture the imagination and raise pointed questions about the sociopolitical conditions in which we live and our own potential to change them.
In addition, this fall the Kemper Art Museum will mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of its current facilities with a striking new installation of the renowned permanent collection. Working in collaboration with Los Angeles-based architects Frank Escher and Ravi Gunewardena, the curatorial staff has redesigned the Bernoudy Permanent Collection Gallery to shed new light on many of the museum’s most important artworks.
Selections from the collection will be presented in three thematic sections — Nature | Culture, Abstract | Real, and Body | Self — that reconsider the history of modern and contemporary art as one comprised of multiple, often intersecting narratives. Together, these sections challenge popular notions of progressive development from figuration to abstraction; investigate the political and national investment in landscapes; and explore depictions of the human figure that focus on shifting conceptions of identity.
In spring 2012, the Kemper Art Museum will be the only U.S. venue to present John Stezaker, the first major solo museum exhibition of works by this contemporary British artist, whose subversive collages slyly repurpose classic movie stills, vintage postcards, book illustrations and other materials. Organized by the Whitechapel Gallery in London and Mudam in Luxembourg, John Stezaker surveys the artist’s career with more than 90 works dating from the 1970s to the present.
Also opening in the spring will be Killing Time, a solo exhibition of works by Balázs Kicsiny, the 2011-12 Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist in Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. One of Hungary’s most highly regarded contemporary artists, Kicsiny is perhaps best known for haunting sculptural installations — “frozen performances” — that draw equally on the languages of theater, philosophy and the visual arts.
In conjunction with the exhibitions, the Kemper Art Museum will host a dynamic range of free public programs, including, lectures, concerts, films, gallery talks and other events throughout the year. Highlights will include a lecture by contemporary German photographer Thomas Demand, whose work is featured in Precarious Worlds, Sept. 14; and a talk by Tomás Saraceno Oct. 5.
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 more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
2011-12 Exhibition Schedule
August 19, 2011
Bernoudy Permanent Collection Gallery reopening
Sept. 9, 2011, to Jan. 9, 2012
Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific
Curated by Meredith Malone, associate curator, Kemper Art Museum
Drawing inspiration from clouds, bubbles, spider webs and other natural structures, Tomás Saraceno produces visionary installations that capture the imagination while raising pointed questions about the sociopolitical conditions in which we live and our own potential to change them. Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific will effectively transform the gallery into an investigative laboratory reflecting the artist’s experimental practice, based on extensive material investigations and a uniquely collaborative approach. Highlights will range from recent pneumatic sculptures and modular environments to video works, all of which advance Saraceno’s ongoing exploration into the possibility of what he also calls an Air-Port-City (2001–present), a sustainable floating city in the sky fueled by solar energy.
Precarious Worlds: Contemporary Art from Germany
Curated by Sabine Eckmann, William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator, Kemper Art Museum
Exploring thematic connections between some of the most influential contemporary artists working in Germany today, Precarious Worlds showcases a group of important new acquisitions made possible by a generous gift from the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation. Mediating radical political and societal transformations brought about by globalization and by the collapse of Cold War ideologies, these works — by artists such as Franz Ackermann, Thomas Demand, Sergej Jensen, and Corinne Wasmuht — investigate issues relating to digitization, material instability and the individual’s attachment to, and detachment from, historical notions of place. Also on view will be significant pieces, already in the museum collection, by Michel Majerus, Manfred Pernice, and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as a large-scale installation, on loan, by Hans-Peter Feldmann.
Jan. 27 to April 23, 2012
Coordinated by Karen K. Butler, assistant curator, Kemper Art Museum
Contemporary British artist John Stezaker is both fascinated by the lure of images and critical of their seductive potential. Using classic movie stills, vintage postcards, book illustrations and other materials, Stezaker brings new meanings to old images, adjusting, inverting and slicing pictures together to create collages that are elegant and nostalgic but also eerie and absurd. With more than 90 works spanning from the 1970s to the present, this exhibition — the artist’s first major solo museum show — explores the subversive force of found images and invites viewers to interrogate the inherent power of the act of looking.
John Stezaker is organized by the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and Mudam, Luxembourg. The Kemper Art Museum is its only U.S. venue.
Jan. 27 to April 16, 2012
Balázs Kicsiny: Killing Time
Curated by Robert Gero, lecturer, College and Graduate School of Art, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Based in Budapest, Kicsiny is one of Hungary’s most highly regarded contemporary artists; he represented the nation at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. Though his practice involves multiple media, including sculpture, film, performance and painting, Kicsiny is perhaps best known for his haunting, large-scale installations, or “frozen performances,” which draw on the languages of theater, philosophy and the visual arts to explore dichotomies of time and space, motion and stillness, history and modernity.
As the 2011-12 Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist, Kicsiny served a residency in the Sam Fox School in spring 2011, during which he worked with faculty and graduate students in preparation for the exhibition.