The image is chilling. A black male figure, head gently tilted, emerges from a collage of distorted body parts, arms raised to form a fractured, asymmetrical cross.
In “It Shall Be Named” (1994), Renée Cox draws a powerful allusion between Christ’s crucifixion and the lynching of African-Americans. The piece is one of more than 50 important, and provocative, works recently donated to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis by Peter Norton, the arts philanthropist and software entrepreneur.
This spring and summer, the Kemper Art Museum will feature highlights from that gift in “Rotation 1: Contemporary Art from the Peter Norton Gift.” The first of two planned exhibitions — “Rotation 2” will follow in the fall — “Rotation 1” includes “It Shall Be Named” as well as video, sculpture, photography and installations by Doug Aitken, Anna Gaskell, Katarzyna Józefowicz, Inez van Lamsweerde, Allen Ruppersberg and Kara Walker.
Taken together, these mostly large-scale works represent some of the most interesting and challenging artistic positions to emerge in the 1990s and early 2000s, exploring issues of race and gender and the effects of media imagery.
“Rotation 1” opens with a reception from 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 1. Also opening that evening will be the “2015 MFA Thesis Exhibition,” which features projects by 23 graduating Master of Fine Arts candidates from Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
Also on view will be “Neither Here Nor There: Borders and Mobility in Contemporary Art.” Organized by the university’s 2014-15 Arthur Greenberg Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows, the exhibition explores the promise and realities of national and cultural boundaries in our increasingly globalized world.
All three exhibitions remain on view through Aug. 2. 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.-5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. the first Friday of the month. The museum is closed Tuesdays and university holidays.
For more information, call 314-935-4523; visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu; or follow the museum on Facebook and Twitter.