press release

Focusing on the genres of Landscape, Portraiture, Abstraction and artworks that engage the Everyday, the installation traces the ways in which modern and contemporary artists have addressed shifting notions of subjectivity and self. In particular, Modernity and Self traces how artists - in the face of radical social, political, economic, and technological changes - have developed new concepts of artistic identity while negotiating the relationship between subject and external world in new and salient ways.

Each of the four sections highlights a considerable range of strategies and interpretations. Landscape painting — which gained popularity as a mode of artistic investigation during the 19th century — can imply a civilizing or domesticating of the natural world, as in George Caleb Bingham's Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851-52). Yet it also can reflect the promise of new technologies, as in Lyonel Feininger's Brücke I (Bridge I) (1913), or convey modernity's unsettling effects, as in Chaim Soutine's Landscape with Church Tower (Saint-Pierre's Church in Céret) (1919).

Abstraction, a celebrated invention of the early twentieth century, has been perceived as the epitome of originality and creative subjectivity, for instance in the work of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. It can also be perceived, however, as the complete loss thereof, through quasi-automatic painting procedures or the use of rigid geometric structures, as in the work of Josef Albers.

Questions of identity and representation have been especially pressing in portraiture. Modernity and Self includes a number of fundamentally differing approaches, from Thomas Eakins' Portrait of Professor W.D. Marks (1886) — which reflects a positivist belief in the construction of knowledge based on verifiable information gained from the natural world — to more, probing, distorting, and fragmentary renderings of the human subject by Max Beckmann, Philip Guston and Jean Dubuffet.

Modernity's cacophonous sense of fragmentation can be seen to mediate the everyday in works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. At the same time, many artists bridge the gap between art and life by enlisting nontraditional materials. Robert Rauschenberg's Choke (1964) combines painted passages with silkscreened commercial imagery. John Chamberlain's Hanging Herm (1974) is constructed entirely from demolished car parts.

In addition to Modernity and Self, the Kemper Art Museum will feature contemporary photography as well as several new acquisitions in the Saligman Family Atrium. Works include Louise Lawler's Not Yet Titled (2004-5), Michel Majerus' monumental canvas MM6 (2001) and Olafur Eliasson's Your Imploded View (2001), a highly-polished, 600-pound aluminum sphere that reflects and distorts its surroundings. The 5,000-square-foot Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden will showcase a new site-specific installation by Chicago artist Dan Peterman, Alexander Calder's large Five Rudders (1964) and other signature pieces.


only in german

Modernity and Self

mit John Baldessari, Max Beckmann, George Wesley Bellows, Christian Boltanski, Jean Dubuffet, Thomas Eakins, Philip Guston, Marsden Hartley, Ludwig Meidner, Joan Miró, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Thaddeus Strode, Wolfgang Tillmans, Karel Appel, Josef Albers, Willem De Kooning, Paul Klee, Lucebert , Antoine Pevsner, Jackson Pollock, Pierre Soulages, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Max Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, Maurice Prendergast, Chaim Soutine, Georges Braque, John Chamberlain, Arthur Dove, Lucio Fontana, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Arnold Odermatt, Robert Rauschenberg, Antoni Tàpies, Tom Wesselmann ...