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Northwestern Visual Arts in May

Block Museum, Dittmar Gallery and University Library offer free exhibitions

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An exhibition that examines Chicago’s role in early 20th century progressive architecture and another about a blacklisted artist in the 1950s, are open for public viewing through Aug. 11 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

“Drawing the Future: Chicago Architecture on the International Stage, 1900-1925,” in the Block’s Main Gallery, highlights the role Chicago architects played in the development of urban planning in the United States, Europe and Australia during the early 20th century.

“Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios,” in the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery, showcases Gropper’s personal and artistic response to his experience as a blacklisted artist in 1950s America. Gropper’s “Capriccios” portfolio is displayed in its entirety for the first time in nearly 60 years.

The Block also is hosting the “CLOWNFLANEUR: MFA Thesis Exhibition,” from May 3 through June 13 in the Alsdorf Gallery, featuring the works of four Northwestern University graduate students soon to earn master of fine art degrees. An opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, which is free and open to the public, will feature guest speaker Wassan Al-Khudhairi, former director of Mathaf:  Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha Qatar.   

Block’s ongoing exhibition, “Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” in the Theo Leffmann Gallery, runs through Aug. 11. For more information, visit the Block website at or call (847) 491-4000.

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery hosts “Plastic World,” though May 5. The exhibition is a commentary by Chicago artist Mary Ellen Croteau on the environmental impact of plastic bags, jar lids and bottle caps. The Dittmar will host the Senior Art Show, “Glossolalia,May 10 through June 13, an exhibition of the works of soon-to-graduate Northwestern University senior art majors in the department of art theory and practice. For more information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email or visit

Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, hosts an exhibition that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Viola Spolin, an innovator of 20th century American theater. Spolin’s contributions helped spark the improvisational theater movement. “Viola Spolin: Improvisation & Intuition” exhibition runs through Aug. 16. For more, visit or call (847) 491-7658.


Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the 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.


A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has limited 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


“Drawing the Future: Chicago Architecture on the International Stage, 1900-1925,” through Aug. 11, Block Museum, Main Gallery. Early 20th century Chicago-based architects engaged in international conversations with their progressive European counterparts as urban planning evolved in practice and on paper. Curated by Northwestern’s David Van Zanten, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, this exhibition explores the dialogue between architects and city planners in the United States, Europe and Australia through drawings, large-scale architectural renderings, sketches and rare books. An accompanying full-color publication provides original research exploring the international exchanges among architects Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Tony Garnier, Rudolf Schindler and others. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art on behalf of William Osborn and David Kabiller; John K. Notz Jr.; Myers Foundations; Alumnae of Northwestern University; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Graduate School, Northwestern University; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Norton S. Walbridge Fund; Carlyle Anderson Endowment; Kessel Fund at the Block Museum; and Walter Burley Griffin Society of America. Related events include a May 15 gallery talk featuring curator David Van Zanten, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History; and catalogue contributors Ashley Dunn, doctoral candidate in art history at Northwestern University; and Leslie Coburn, doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Guided tours of the exhibition continue through June 23. For more information, visit

“Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios,” through Aug. 11, Block Museum, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery. This exhibition showcases artist William Gropper’s personal and visionary response to his experience as a blacklisted artist in 1950s America. His portfolio of 50 lithographs, created after his encounters with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, was inspired by Goya’s late 18th century series of etchings “Los Caprichos.” Gropper’s “Capriccios” will be displayed in their entirety for the first time in nearly 60 years. “Blacklisted” is curated by John Murphy, Block Museum Graduate Fellow 2012-13.  Support is provided by the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Endowment, Norton S. Walbridge Fund, Louise E. Drangsholt Fund and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Block Museum is grateful to Evelyn Salk for her gift of the Gropper portfolio in memory of her husband, Erwin A. Salk.

“CLOWNFLANEUR: Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition,” May 3 through June 23, Block Museum, Alsdorf Gallery. Thought-provoking installations, performance art, digital projects, collages and videos by four Northwestern University graduate students soon to earn their MFA degrees will be showcased. The show marks the culmination of study for these student artists leading up to the master of fine arts degree. The exhibiting students are Amanda Elise Bowles, a project-based artist who works in performance, installation and video; Daniel Giles, an artist whose practice negotiates the spaces, tropes and artifacts of black cultural production; Esau McGhee, also known as “Blackdynamite,” who considers himself a conceptual formalist; and Matt Morris, an artist and writer who uses photography, installation and other interventions to explore queer political subjects. The exhibition and an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, are free and open to the public. Wassan Al-Khudhairi, former director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, will give remarks.


“Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” through Aug. 11, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Theo Leffman Gallery, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Northwestern University, Evanston campus. 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. Leffmann’s 40-year career coincided with a revolution in textile art as the division between “high art” and “craft” diminished. Her colorful, richly textured and playful weavings, wall hangings and sculptural objects are drawn from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. They are generous gifts from her husband Paul Leffmann.


Free guided weekend tours of the Block Museum’s spring exhibitions, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through June 23. Tours for classes and groups of eight or more are also available with advance notice. To arrange a group tour, email, or for information, visit


The following programs are free and open to the public:

• Black Collectivities Conference Keynote Conversation, 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 3, Block Museum. (REGISTRATION IS FULL.) How do collaboratives created by cultural practitioners of African descent provide new perceptions, understandings and forms of practice? This conference brings together key individuals from around the globe, including Otolith Group cofounder Kodwo Eshun, artists Theaster Gates and Rick Lowe, musician George Lewis, and Tate Gallery curator Elvira Dyangani Ose, to broach this question. It is organized by Huey Copeland, associate professor of art history at Northwestern, and Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA). A keynote conversation with Eshun, Lowe and moderator Beckwith will take place at the Block Museum on Friday, May 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. All other speakers are featured in conversations from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at the MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., along with a conference wrap-up panel moderated by Huey Copeland. (REGISTRATION IS FULL, but the MCA has an overflow room where visitors may watch a broadcast of the conference. Call the MCA Box Office at (312) 397-4010 for details.) Admission is free. Visit for more information.

• Gallery Talk, 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, Block Museum. Join “Drawing the Future” curator David Van Zanten and catalogue contributors Ashley Dunn and Leslie Coburn for a close-up discussion of the exhibition.

• Department of Art History, Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture by Tim Griffin, 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, Block Museum. Griffin is the executive director and chief curator of The Kitchen, a non-profit, interdisciplinary organization that provides artists working in the media, literary and performing arts with exhibitions and performances opportunities to create and present new work. For more information, visit or call (847) 491-4000.

• One Book, One Northwestern, “Never a City So Real” stage adaptation, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, June 9, Block Museum. D. Soyini Madison, chair of Northwestern’s department of performance studies, will direct a stage adaptation of “Never a City so Real” by Alex Kotlowitz that brings the people in Kotlowitz’s book to life. Admission is free, but since space is limited an advance response is required. Go to the One Book website at and reserve your seat. For more information, email


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 art students and traveling art shows. For more information, visit


“Plastic World” by Mary Croteau, through May 5, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. For 12 years, Chicago artist Mary Ellen Croteau has been making art about environmental issues. By integrating plastic bags, jar lids and bottle caps in her work, Croteau comments on environmental degradation. The exhibition features Croteau’s installations, wall hangings, sculpture and an 8-by-7-foot self-portrait made of bottle caps. For more information, visit

• Senior Art Show, “Glossolalia,” May 10 through June 13, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. The group exhibition showcases the works of Northwestern University’s soon-to-graduate 2013 senior class of art theory and practice majors. Featuring artwork by Madeline Amos, Kyle Frost, Audrey Haque, Jason Pan, Andrew Paulson, Harrison Shih, Laura Shultz, Judy Suh, Alaya Turnbough, Wendy You and Crystal Zhang, the show explores different ways of constructing meaning in contemporary art. A 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 10 opening reception and the exhibition are free and open to the public. Additional programming will be announced at a later date.


• “People and Places,” NU Galleria exhibit, May 6 through 12, Northwestern University’s Norris University Center, ground floor, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. To celebrate Chicago and Alex Kotlowitz’s One Book One Northwestern book selection, the exhibit will showcase photographs by Northwestern students of their favorite Windy City landmarks, neighborhoods and people. The exhibit, displayed in the pop-up gallery space near Norris’ Food Court, is the culmination of a recent student photo contest hosted by the Dittmar Memorial Gallery and One Book One Northwestern. Admission is free. 


Exhibitions at Northwestern University Library at 1970 Campus Drive, 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, through Aug. 16. 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.


• “Viola Spolin: Improvisation & Intuition” exhibit, through Aug. 16, University Library, Northwestern University, Evanston campus. This exhibition celebrates Spolin’s contribution to the world of theater. Known as the “High Priestess of Improv,” Viola Spolin (1906-1994) influenced a generation of performers who, in turn, shaped today’s entertainment landscape. 

The exhibit -- curated by Dan Zellner, Charlotte Cubbage and Benn Joseph -- draws on the  writings, games, production photos, scripts and other materials that are part of the Spolin Collection at the McCormick Library of Special Collections. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Clare Roccaforte at or (847) 467-5918.

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