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Northwestern Visual Arts in July and August

Block Museum, Dittmar Gallery and University Library offer free summer exhibitions

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An exhibition exploring the international influence of Chicago-based architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Burley Griffin and others, and an artist talk by Vermont-based woodturner Michael Mode are among the visual arts events at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus this summer.

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art’s exhibition “Drawing the Future: Chicago Architecture on the International Stage, 1900-1925” highlights the role Chicago architects played in the development of urban planning in the United States, Europe and Australia during the early 20th century. “Drawing the Future” and a second exhibition, “Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios,” which showcases Gropper’s artistic response to being blacklisted in the 1950s, are open for public viewing through Aug. 11.

On Aug. 4, the Block Museum hosts a talk by artist Michael Mode, an award-winning woodturner known for his colorful and intricate designs.


“The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation,” Sept. 20 through Dec. 1, Block Museum of Art, Main Gallery. “The Polaroid Years” surveys the impact of instant photography on the art world, beginning with Polaroid’s introduction of the portable SX-70 camera in 1972. The exhibition chronicles decades of innovations by more than 40 artists, ranging from Walker Evans, who embraced the SX-70 late in his career, to Lucas Samaras, who distorted Polaroid prints to create dazzling self-portraits, to Lisa Oppenheim, who created her abstractions in 2008 -- just as Polaroid stopped making analog film. “The Polaroid Years was organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with research support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and exhibition sponsorship by the Smart Family Fund for Art Exhibition Support.

“Steichen | Warhol: Picturing Fame,” Sept. 20 through Dec. 1, Block Museum of Art, Alsdorf Gallery. Drawn primarily from the Block’s photography collection, this exhibition examines the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol, two artists who shaped the visions and imaginations of generations of Americans through their iconic images of celebrities, fashion and popular culture. In the 1920s and 1930s, Steichen’s portraits of actors, writers, musicians, politicians, models and socialites for Vanity Fair and Vogue elevated his subjects to iconic status. Fifty years later, Warhol borrowed from and subverted that language of celebrity for his photographs of friends and patrons.

For more information, visit the Block Museum website at or call (847) 491-4000.

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery hosts “Moving Spectacles,” from June 28 through Aug. 11, a selection of photographs by Chicago artist and educator Liese Ricketts that were taken when she visited small nomadic family circuses in Peru. The exhibition and a 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 30 opening reception, at the gallery, are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email or visit the Dittmar Gallery website

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

Details related to these and other events follow:


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. From June 25 through Aug. 11, the galleries will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is located on Monday. (Editor’s note: The museum will be closed from Aug. 13 through Sept. 19.) For more information, visit the Block Museum website 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 the Block Museum website


“Drawing the Future: Chicago Architecture on the International Stage, 1900-1925,” through Aug. 11, Block Museum, Main Gallery. 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 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.

“Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios,” through Aug. 11, Block Museum, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery. This exhibition showcases William Gropper’s personal and artistic response to his experience as a blacklisted artist in 1950s America. A portfolio of 50 lithographs, created after his encounters with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, was inspired by Goya’s late 18th century etchings “Los Caprichos.” Gropper’s “Capriccios” are 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.


“Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” through Aug. 11, Block Museum of Art, 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. 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.


Artist Talk, Michael Mode, 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, Block Museum. Mode, a Vermont-based master woodturner, has won awards for his single laminate and multi-laminate wood vessels of colorful and intricate designs. Mode will speak about “The Power of Inspiration.” For more information on Mode and his work, visit his website. Admission is free and open to the public.

(Editor’s note: Mode’s work is included in “The Art of Craft: Works from NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Collection of Fine American Craft,” Aug. 5 through Aug. 25, a special free exhibition at the Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan Road, Evanston, and in the American Craft Exposition, which takes place the weekend of Aug. 23 to 25, at Northwestern’s Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, 2311 N. Campus Drive, Evanston campus. Proceeds from the annual craft exposition support breast and ovarian cancer research and care at NorthShore University HealthSystem. For questions related to the Evanston Arts Center August exhibition or the American Craft Exposition, phone (224) 364-7270 or email                                                                                                           


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (Editor’s note: From June 24 to Aug. 16, the gallery will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.) 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 the Dittmar Gallery website.


“Moving Spectacles” by Liese Ricketts, June 28 through Aug. 11, Dittmar Memorial Gallery features photographs that Chicago artist and educator Liese Ricketts took in 2010 when visiting small nomadic family circuses in Peru. The exhibition and an opening reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at the gallery, are free and open to the public. 


The exhibition at Northwestern University Library at 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, is open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 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 the University Library website or call (847) 491-7658. 


“Viola Spolin: Improvisation & Intuition,” 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 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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