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September/October 2012 Visual Arts Calendar

Block’s Shimon Attie and German art exhibitions examine identity and memory issues

EVANSTON, Ill. –- An installation by internationally renowned American artist Shimon Attie and exhibitions exploring modern and contemporary German art at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art this fall deal with issues of identity and memory in the face of social and historical change.

“Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door”; “De-Natured: German Art from Joseph Beuys to Martin Kippenberger, Selections from the James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach Collection”; and Joseph Beuys: Sand Drawings” will be open to the public through Dec. 9 at the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.

Admission to the Block Museum galleries and programs listed below is free. The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed on Monday. For more information, visit or call (847) 491-4000.

NOTE: A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has closed access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit


“Faces of NU: Class of 2016,” through Oct. 5, is the first of three fall exhibitions at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive. It will be followed by the “Norris University Center 40th Anniversary Exhibit,” Oct. 8 to 28.

Diane Kahlo’s “Wall of Memories: Las Desaparecidas de Cuidad Juarez,” Nov. 2 to Dec. 9, remembers the missing and murdered women of Juarez, Mexico. For more information, call the Dittmar at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email or visit


Exhibitions at University Library at 1970 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus are open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. “Sound & Silence: John Cage Composing Himself,” which celebrates the 100th birthday of one of the most influential and controversial figures of 20th-century music and art, runs through Dec. 21. “Decorative Cloth: Publishers’ Trade Bindings, 1820-1920,” runs through March 25, 2013. For more information, visit or call (847) 491-7658.


“De-Natured: German Art from Joseph Beuys to Martin Kippenberger, Selections from the James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach Collection,” through Dec. 9, Block Museum, Main Gallery. “De-Natured” presents a compelling introduction to recent and contemporary German art, with work by 10 well-known German artists from the mid-1960s to today. While diverse and varied, the work of these artists has been informed by a fracturing and questioning of authenticity and representation provoked by 20th-century German history. Using unconventional materials, artist Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) addressed profound questions of creativity, social change and personal action. Pioneering conceptual artist Hanne Darboven (1941-2009) utilized numerical systems to convey the passage of time. Gerhard Richter’s (b. 1932) works in oil, photography, print media and drawing investigate what lies beneath the visible surface of a work of art. Sigmar Polke (1941–2010) appropriated images from advertisements to address the superficiality of consumer culture. Self-referential drawings on hotel stationery by Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997) introduced an anarchic expressivity, evocatively combining the public and the personal. Other artists featured in the “De-Natured” exhibition include Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (b. 1934), Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) and Thomas Struth (b. 1954). The exhibition is organized and circulated by the Ackland Art Museum, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with funding provided by the William Hayes Ackland Trust. Support for its presentation at the Block Museum is provided by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; and the Evanston Arts Council.

“Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door,” through Dec. 9, Block Museum, Alsdorf Gallery. For two decades, Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957) has created immersive multimedia art -- from photographs and video installations in museums and galleries to site-specific works in public places -- that reflect on the relationship between place, memory and identity. Attie has described some of his artwork, in part, as “a kind of peeling back of the wallpaper of today to reveal the histories buried underneath.” In “Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door,” the artist has re-envisioned a work which featured archival film footage taken clandestinely by people forced into seclusion by the Nazis. In 1995 Attie projected the films onto the sidewalks of Amsterdam from apartments where many individuals actually hid during World War II. In Fall 2012 visitors to the Block Museum will view the films in a gallery installation that evokes the experience of watching from a confined space. “Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door” is co-curated by David Tolchinsky and Debra Tolchinsky, faculty members of the department of radio/television/film. Support for the exhibition is provided by the Rubens Family Foundation, Alsdorf Endowment, and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

“Joseph Beuys: Sand Drawings,” through Dec. 9, Block Museum, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery. Joseph Beuys was one of the most radical artists of the 20th century and a prominent spokesperson of postwar German art. He made actions, sculptures and multiples, professing that art should be a way of life. In December 1974, Beuys traveled to Diani Beach on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya with friend and photographer Charles Wilp. Beuys drew his distinctive motifs, such as animals and alchemical symbols, in the sand and inscribed the drawings with his characteristic signature. Wilp documented these temporal artworks that were later compiled into the portfolio “Sandzeichnungen.” The “Joseph Beuys: Sand Drawings” exhibition presents the portfolio in its entirety and features a rare and poetic insight into Beuys’ spiritual and aesthetic connection to nature, inspired by spending the winter solstice south of the equator. The portfolio “Sanzseichnungen” is displayed courtesy of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library. Support for this exhibition has been provided by the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Endowment, Evanston Arts Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. 


“Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” through Dec. 9, Block Museum, Theo Leffman Gallery. The fiber art of Chicago artist Theo Leffmann (1911-96) evokes the ancient and the exotic, echoing pre-Columbian and non-Western processes and forms with a distinct personal vision. Her 40-year career coincided with a revolution in textile art as the division between “high art” and “craft” diminished. The display of Leffmann’s colorful, richly textured and playful weavings, wall hangings and sculptural objects is drawn from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. The works are generous gifts from her husband Paul Leffmann.


The Block Museum has organized special events to complement these exhibitions, including a talk by Shimon Attie, a program exploring American poet Audre Lorde’s experience in West Germany and discussions with two prominent art historians about the work of Gerhard Richter. The following programs are free and open to the public.

Audre Lorde’s Cultural Legacy, Oct. 3 and 4. A book reading and two nights of film screenings at Block Cinema examine the influence of African American poet, author and activist Audre Lorde, who was inspirational to the civil rights, feminist and LGBTQ movements in the United States and abroad. The events include:

Book reading:Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany,” 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, Block Museum. Audre Lorde Literary Award winner Ika Hugel-Marshall, who was also a friend of Lorde, will present selections from her critically acclaimed autobiography in a 90-minute bilingual (German and English) reading.

Film screening, “Audre Lorde; The Berlin Years 1984-1992,” 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, Block Cinema. Film director Dagmar Schultz will present the Midwest premiere of her documentary chronicling poet and activist Audre Lorde’s residency in Berlin, where she was instrumental in forming the Afro-German movement, encouraging activists and poets alike to give voice to their experience as people of color in Germany. A short film produced by Schultz about the German-Ghanaian poet May Ayim, “Hope in My Heart,” will be shown first. Michelle Wright, associate professor of African American studies, Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will introduce the filmmaker.

“A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde” and “The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde,” 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, Block Cinema. These two documentary films explore Lorde’s life and her broader legacy. D. Soyini Madison, professor of anthropology and African studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and professor and chair of the department of performance studies, School of Communication, will introduce the screenings.

Audre Lorde’s Cultural Legacy is sponsored by the Northwestern University departments of African American studies, English, German and history, the comparative literary studies, American studies and the Latino and Latina studies programs, the poetry and poetics colloquium, The Graduate School, the School of Communication, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. Support is also provided by the Goethe-Institut Chicago.


“Sites Unseen,” 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11. Block Museum. During the 1990s artist Shimon Attie presented a series of temporary installations, including “The Neighbor Next Door,” in public spaces of European cities that addressed legacies of the Holocaust. Attie will discuss these projects as well as more recent work examining Arab/Israeli relations. This program is sponsored by the Myers Foundations, the Northwestern departments of radio/television/film, art theory and practice, art history and German, the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies, and Fiedler Hillel.

“Educating the Eye: Drawing through History with Art Institute of Chicago’s Mark Pascale,” 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, Block Museum. Mark Pascale, curator in the department of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, will trace the historical development of drawing and the artists who expanded the definition and practice of the art form. Light morning fare will be served at 9:30 a.m. This program is free to Block Museum members; $10 for non-members. To register, email Inquire about on campus parking when registering.

“Realism and Abstraction in the Work of Gerhard Richter: The Social History of Postwar German Art,” at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, Block Museum. Art historians have frequently wrestled with Gerhard Richter's shifting stylistic choices. In individual presentations, Paul Jaskot, professor of the history of art and architecture at DePaul University, and Christine Mehring, associate professor of art history at the University of Chicago, will focus on two key bodies of work in Richter’s career -- his painterly reproductions of family and popular press photographs and his gestural abstractions -- to situate these choices in relationship to social and political developments of urgency to the artist and postwar Germany in general. This program is sponsored by Northwestern’s departments of art history and German.


Block Museum docents lead guided tours of the fall exhibitions at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 29 to Dec. 9. Tours for classes and groups of eight or more people are available with advance notice. Call (847) 491-4852, email, or visit for more information.


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The gallery focuses on ethnic cultural art, art by emerging artists, art by or about women, artwork by Northwestern undergraduate and graduate art students, and traveling art shows. For information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email or visit


“Faces of NU: Class of 2016,” through Oct. 5, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Inspired by The Hapa Project, a multiracial identity art project created by American artist Kip Fulbeck, a professor of performance studies and video at the University of California, Santa Barbara, “Faces of NU” is a pictorial essay of the multi-layered identities of Northwestern University’s incoming Class of 2016.

“Norris University Center 40th Anniversary Exhibit,” Oct. 8 to 28, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. As the community center of Northwestern University’s students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests, Norris University Center provides services and programs designed to benefit members of the University. It’s also the place where Northwestern students go to meet, eat, socialize, study and relax. The exhibition will feature photos, furniture, games and memories of the students who have made Norris the center of the Evanston campus for four decades. The exhibition launches a yearlong celebration at Norris. An opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11 is free and open to the public.


Exhibitions at University Library at 1970 Campus Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus, are open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., or as noted. Members of the Northwestern community with a valid WildCARD can visit during all open library hours. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call (847) 491-7658.

“Sound & Silence: John Cage Composing Himself,” through Dec. 9, Northwestern University Library. Northwestern’s Music Library holds one of the most important collections of Cage’s work. Because of its focus on 20th century classical music, Cage made Northwestern Music Library the repository for two of his most important collections: his correspondence, an extensive body of personal and professional communications spanning more than 50 years and a collection of original music manuscripts by Cage and 273 other contemporary composers. Cage obtained the music manuscripts for his groundbreaking book “Notations.” Co-curated by Greg MacAyeal, assistant head of the Music Library, and Nina Barrett, the library’s communications specialist, “Sound & Silence” uses the collection to illustrate some of Cage’s major achievements and to highlight some of the less examined chapters in his life. The exhibition is part of Northwestern’s celebration of Cage’s 100th birthday, which also includes a lecture, concerts, festival, a two-day symposium and more. For more information, visit

“Decorative Cloth: Publishers’ Trade Bindings, 1820,” runs through March 25, 2013, University Library, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections. In the early 19th century, the development of case binding, a technique conducive to mass production, made the manufacture of books with uniform binding possible. Publishers eventually began using this convenience to their further advantage, decorating the covers and spines as a form of commercial enticement and an expression of house pride. This trend continued into the early years of the 20th century. The Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections holds thousands of examples of these publishers’ trade bindings, a selection of which are on display on the third floor of Deering Library. The exhibition is arranged chronologically by decade and showcases some of the typical designs found during those decades. It is open to the public during the Library’s regular public hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to Noon Saturday. For more on the Deering Library, visit

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