Two Art Books: Louise Bourgeois and Fischli/Weiss

Through September 8, 2024

Lillian Vanous Nutt Room, Greenfield Library, St. John's College.

This exhibition presents two small, zine-like art books, each featuring a single body of work. Though different in temperament and focus, both ask fundamental questions about the meaning of life and our place in the social or natural order.

Les Fleurs (The Flowers) includes reproductions of 28 gouache paintings created by the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois in 2009–10, a year before she died at the age of 97. Flowers typically symbolize growth, fecundity, and rejuvenation. Here the flat, silhouetted images—laid out in a regulated sequence—call to mind leafy specimens pressed under glass gathered for future study. In structure, they also evoke human anatomy; in hue and translucency, the paint looks like fresh blood. Bourgeois herself has verbally made this connection between the natural world and the human body, saying, “It seems rather evident to me that our own body is a figuration that appears in Mother Earth.”

Ordnung and Reinlichkeit (Order and Cleanliness) by the Swiss artist duo Fischli/Weiss, contains 15 black and white drawings by the artists from 1981. (The zine on view here is from 2016.) As if extracted from a corporate report­­ or a textbook, each drawing is labeled as a figure (fig. no. 1, etc.), supporting a text that is nowhere to be found. The diagrams tackle such topics as the will to power, love, anxiety, and the constitution of an organism. One of them intertwines big timeless questions (e.g., “Is the galaxy still growing?”) with small ones (“Is the bus still running?”). The tone seems earnest but the small scale and humorous insertions suggest otherwise. Fischli/Weiss are poking fun at the high expectations we have of them.


Theatre of Turmoil

September 15–December 8, 2024

A stage-set like installation of black & white prints of major works from U.S. and European museum collections exploring unrest in Western art through the ages. Bouguereau, Bruegel, Copley, Delacroix, Gentileschi, Géricault, Manet, Picasso, Rembrandt, Rodin, Rubens. The exhibition asks, “Of what use is discomfort in art?” or alternatively, “What’s the efficacy of affect?”


Some Light Reading (A Summer Exhibition)

May 4–July 7, 2024

In this exhibition, artworks by five artists and poetic texts by four writers address the magical, life-making qualities of light. Referenced here are the sun and moon, the stars, an oil lamp, and an electric chandelier. But visual art and literature can be sources of illumination as well. The writer and activist Audre Lorde, writing about “poetry as illumination,” once noted that, “The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.” The artists and writers include Vija Celmins, Emily Dickinson, Rockne Krebs, Audre Lorde, Virgil Marti, Eileen Myles, Eileen Neff, and Virginia Woolf, and Bahar Yürükoğlu.

Librería Donceles: A Project by Pablo Helguera

“Can art be bound?” This is one of the questions raised by this exhibition, which takes the form of a used bookstore, crammed with a world’s worth of Spanish-language titles. Artist Pablo Helguera created Librería Donceles in Brooklyn 10 years ago to serve the growing Hispanic and Latinx communities in New York. Since then, the bookstore has traveled to more than a dozen cities, becoming a vibrant hub of activity in each.

On December 8-9, 2023, /m brought together the founding artist, arts educators, and musicians for a 10th-anniversary celebration. The weekend included two workshops, a panel discussion, a performance, and a traditional Mexican Posada.

Artist travel supported, in part, by the Mexican Cultural Institute, Washington, DC. Presented in partnership with OHLA (Organization of Hispanics/Latin Americans of Anne-Arundel County).

Polly Apfelbaum: Sampling a Sampler Sampling

January 20–April 21, 2024

A critique of judgment is at the core of New York-based artist Polly Apfelbaum’s work, which comprises textiles, and, as of late, ceramics. At /m, she is creating a new installation of unaltered, commercially produced fabrics laid out in a grid on the floor.

The installation is an evolution of her well-known “fallen paintings,” which are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Experiencing “Sampling a Sampler Sampling,” we are forced to look down, literally, on artwork that encompasses design, craft, and traditional women’s work. Any superiority one feels, however, is quickly undermined when we realize that the single artwork, light as it is, asserts a claim to the entire gallery while we, the viewers, stand with our backs against the wall. The installation poses several questions, among them, “What is order?” “What is originality?” “What are the bases of our judgments?” and “What do we look down on?”

Image credit: Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

The Speed of Time: Film/Video Art in the U.S., 1965–80

October 14–December 10, 2023

Including art by Vito Acconci, Eleanor Antin, Barbara Hammer, Gary Hill, Joan Jonas, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Nam June Paik

In the 1960s, happenings, minimalism, and performance art introduced the concept of time into contemporary art. But it wasn’t until artists started experimenting with technology, using such tools as computers, Kodak Super 8 cameras, and Sony Portapak video cameras, that time was inscribed as a new dimension in visual art, appearing in lieu of inches on museum labels. This exhibition unites pioneering work by seven artists who experimented with the elastic, symbolic, emotional, and social aspects of this ever-elusive subject, while probing the new art’s changing expectations of the viewer.

José Guadalupe Posada: Legendary Mexican Printmaker

July 21–October 1, 2023

An extraordinary collection of work by the artist who Mexican muralist Diego Rivera deemed the “guerrilla fighter of the broadsheets.” The exhibition asked, “Does one have to be serious to be taken seriously?

Love by Looking: Selections from the Alitash Kebede Collection of African American Art

April 9–July 5, 2023

Forty paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints from the collection of pioneering Los-Angeles-based art dealer, including works by Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Mark Bradford, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, and Betye Saar. Kebede befriended almost all the artists in her collection in an effort to create a Black collector base for Black artists. Among other questions, the exhibition asked, “What is the political efficacy of friendship?”

The Open Museum

February 17–March 26, 2023

We reopened after a three-year closure by inviting the public into an otherwise empty museum and asking them to make their mark directly on the clean, white walls. Over the course of five weeks, a cacophony of doodles, diagrams, drawings, and texts filled the space, resulting in an extended portrait of the Mitchell Art Museum’s community. The exhibition was the analog denouement of Pontus Hultén’s concept of the Open Museum and asked, “What is a museum?”