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Chicago

Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago

Exhibition Detail
GO FIGURE
Curated by: Jessica Moss
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637


June 30th, 2011 - September 4th, 2011
Opening: 
June 30th, 2011 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
 
Slow Dance, Kerry James MarshallKerry James Marshall, Slow Dance, 1992-93
© Courtesy of the artist and Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago
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The human form has endured as a powerful subject throughout the history of art. This episodic exhibition illustrates pivotal moments in figurative art of the last sixty years through the work of nine exceptional artists: Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Christina Ramberg, Martín Ramrírez, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh.

Despite their varied approaches to media and subject, these artists are bound by their sustained engagement with the human figure and by their use of pattern as a visual strategy to enhance, entice, or complicate our viewing experience. Go Figure brings together exemplary paintings, drawings, and sculpture from the Smart Museum and other collections throughout Chicago. Together, these works explore issues of identity, personal history, and social change and, in doing so, reveal the versatile capacity of art to capture the diversity and complexity of contemporary human experience.

The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art presents Go Figure, a new exhibition that examines the human form in contemporary art. Covering the last sixty years—and encompassing figurative work that includes invented personae and idealized forms as well as portraits of real people—the exhibition features pivotal works from nine exceptional artists: Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Christina Ramberg, Martín Ramírez, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh. Despite their varied approaches to media and subject, these artists are bound by their sustained engagement with the human figure and by their use of pattern as a visual strategy to enhance, entice, or complicate our viewing experience.

Go Figure brings together exemplary paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture that highlight the Smart Museum’s contemporary collection. It also includes select loans from other collections in Chicago and two works created especially for the exhibition—a new Soundsuit from Nick Cave and a site-specific installation by Clare Rojas. Together, the works explore issues of identity, personal history, and social change and, in doing so, reveal the versatile capacity of art to capture the diversity and complexity of contemporary human experience.

Go Figure is curated by Jessica Moss, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of video interviews showcasing several of the artists discussing their own ideas about the human form, materials, and the artistic process. These video clips will be shown in context with each artist’s work on iPads located throughout the galleries and will also be available online.

Nick Cave (b.  1959) combines his interest in textiles, dance and sculpture to create Soundsuits—sculptural garments that exist both as static objects and as vessels for performance. The fantastical creations are made of found materials like fabric, dryer lint, dyed human hair, sequins, doilies, and hot pads. The artist gives these passed-by or discarded items new life and form. Cave lives and works in Chicago.

  • Soundsuit, 2011, Mixed media (twigs and basket).
  • Soundsuit, 2008, mixed media (metal, cloth, and beads). Collection of Marylin and Larry Fields.


Leon Golub
(1922–2004) studied at the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was part of a group of artists who came of age in mid-twentieth century called the Monster Roster that embraced figuration in a gestural, expressive style to explore existential themes.

  • Prodigal Son, 1956, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Allan and Jean Frumkin, 1991.396.
  • Colossal Heads I, 1958–89, Oil and lacquer on canvas. Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Collection.


Yun-Fei Ji
(b. 1963) combines his interest in traditional Chinese painting techniques, formats, and materials with contemporary imagery that resonates with current issues, particularly the Three Gorges Dam. His detailed and patterned renderings reward close inspection, weaving mysterious creatures and ghosts together with displaced populations. Born in Beijing, Ji lives and works in New York.

  • The Three Gorges Dam Migration, 2010, Set of wooblock prints, hand printed with traditional Chinese watercolor inks from 500 hand-carved blocks of pear wood, on mulberry paper and silk. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2010.5.


Kerry James Marshall
(b. 1955) probes the complexities of black American experience in visually sophisticated works. Marshall’s Slow Dance, a painting that shows the artist at his early best, synthesizes different techniques to create a visually complex scene with a sweetly bluesy subject. He lives and works in Chicago.

  • Slow Dance, 1992–1993, Mixed media and acrylic on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, Smart Family Foundation Fund for Contemporary Art, and Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2004.23.
  • Study for Slow Dance, 1992, Ink on paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of the artist, 2005.71.
  • Study for Slow Dance, 1992, Ink on paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of the artist, 2005.72.


Christina Ramberg
(1946–1995) embraced the figure as the primary subject of her work, as did many of her fellow Chicago Imagists. Her paintings and drawings from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s examined the female form and dissected its parts—cropping, manipulating, and stylizing them through her intricate sense of texture and pattern.

  • Troubled Sleeve, 1974, Acrylic on masonite in artist’s original frame. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, The George Veronda Collection, 1996.32.
  • Heads, 1973, Etching on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Dennis Adrian in memory of the artist, 2001.661.
  • Back-to-Back, 1973, Etching on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Dennis Adrian in memory of the artist, 2001.662.
  • Head, 1969–1970, Color silkscreen on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1995.16.2.
  • Untitled (hair strapped to arm or ___?), Blue ballpoint pen on paper.
  • Untitled (straps between body and arm), Ballpoint pen on paper.
  • Untitled (garment under undergarment), Black ballpoint pen on paper.
  • Untitled (what interests me about these?), Pencil on graph paper.
  • Lola La Lure, 1969, Oil on masonite and wood. Collection of Dennis Adrian, Chicago.
  • Mask, 1974, Acrylic on paper mache and cloth. Collection of Dennis Adrian, Chicago. 
  • Gloved, 1974, Acrylic on masonite. Collection of Mark and Judy Bednar.
  • C.Q. Hats, 1976, Acrylic on masonite. Collection of Deone Jackman.
  • Untitled (study of patterns), Ink on paper. Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery.


Martín Ramírez
(1895–1963) was a master draftsman whose work reveals the influence of his early days as a rancher in Mexico and his time in mental institutions. He transformed simple subjects—a horse and rider, the Madonna, a train in a tunnel—with his unique visual language and command of line, pattern, and rhythm. Ramírez’s most prevalent composition involved a horse and rider, or jinete, often framed by a highly embellished stage, brandishing a pistol, or proudly holding up a slain animal.

  • Untitled (Horse and Rider), c. 1955, Graphite and charcoal? on wove paper pieced together from several sheets. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, The George Veronda Collection, 1996.33.
  • Untitled (Train and Tunnels), c. 1950s, Graphite, crayon, and tempera on paper. Collection of Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt.
  • Untitled (Horse and Rider), c. 1950s, Graphite, crayon, and tempera on paper. Collection of Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt.
  • Untitled (Madonna), c. 1950, Crayon and pencil on pieced paper. Roger Brown Study Collection, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Untitled (Horse and Rider), c. 1948–1963, Crayon and pencil on pieced paper. Collection of Jan Petry.


Ravinder Reddy
(b. 1956) is known for his large-scale painted fiberglass sculptures of Indian women. His portrayals pay tribute to both the idealized female forms of medieval Hindu temple sculpture and the high-keyed advertising of contemporary Indian advertising and street culture. Reddy lives and teaches in Visakhapatnam, India.

  • Girija, 2000, Painted and gilded cast polyester resin fiberglass. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Susan and Lew Manilow, 2003.87.


Clare Rojas (b. 1976) creates large-scale installations of painted wood, pairing figurative paintings with panels of geometric motifs in patterns that create a quilt-like effect. Rojas’s alter-ego, the folk singer Peggy Honeywell, often performs using part of her installation as a stage, inviting comparisons among her invented personae. Rojas received her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives and works in San Francisco.

  • New commission, site-specific.

 

Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010) is best known for portraits that invert the paradigm of the traditional nude female subject. Sleigh sought to emphasize the equality of the sexes by depicting both men and women, nude and clothed, in thoughtful and dignified portraits. Her most celebrated painting is the iconic The Turkish Bath (1973), which references both Ingres’ The Turkish Bath (1862) and Titian’s Venus and the Lute Player (1565–70).

  • The Turkish Bath, 1973, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2000.104
  • Nancy Spero, Leon Golub and Sons Stephen, Phillip and Paul, 1973, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Leon Golub and Nancy Spero, 1988.6.

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