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Northwestern Visual Arts and Films in March

Block Museum, Dittmar Gallery and University Library exhibits open to public

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A lecture by Vasif Kortun, curator and director of research and programs at SALT, Istanbul; an exhibition about American radical art from 1929 to 1940, a show exploring and comparing the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol, and film screenings at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art are among Northwestern University’s March visual arts events.

Other arts events are also being offered by Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences department of art theory and practice, and the University Library.


One Book One Northwestern, the University’s community-wide reading program hosted by the Office of the President, also has scheduled film screenings, themed dinner/panel discussions and more during the 2013-14 academic year. All are free and many are open to the public. For information, visit


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

The following Evanston campus programs are free and open to the public:


Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the Evanston campus. Admission to the Block Museum programs listed below is free, unless noted. The museum is closed on Monday. For more, visit or call (847) 491-4000.


“The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” in the Block Museum’s Main Gallery, through June 22, 2014, explores the work and philosophy of visual artists in the John Reed Club (JRC), who joined forces to form a “left front” with writers and intellectuals dedicated to making socially-conscious art. Artists who belonged to or exhibited with the JRC include Rockwell Kent, William Gropper, Stuart Davis and Morris Topchevsky, who embraced the motto “art as a social weapon.” “The Left Front” is the first exhibition to examine the artistic legacy of the JRC and its successor organization, the American Artists’ Congress (AAC). The exhibition considers Chicago’s industrial legacy, ethnic neighborhoods, historical associations with anarchism and labor unrest, and commitment to social reform through institutions like Hull House. For more information, visit the Block Museum. 

“Steichen|Warhol: Picturing Fame,” in the Block Museum’s Alsdorf Gallery, through April 6. Organized by the Block Museum, this is the first exhibition to compare the work of Steichen and Warhol side by side. It examines the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 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 (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eugene O’Neill, Ethel and John Barrymore and others) to iconic status. Fifty years later, Warhol borrowed and subverted that language of celebrity in photographs of his friends and patrons. “SteichenǀWarhol” is drawn primarily from the Block’s collection and highlights two major gifts to the museum -- 49 vintage Steichen prints donated by Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and his wife, Mimi Schapiro, and more than 150 Warhol photographs from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. For more information, visit

“WORK PRINT PROTEST REPEAT” exhibition, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery, through March 16. Students in Northwestern art history professor Christina Kiaer’s “Radical Art in the 1930s” course organized this companion exhibition to “The Left Front.” Selected from the Block Museum’s permanent collection, the work on view juxtaposes prints by Great Depression-era activist artists with prints by more contemporary political artists to explore the change in protest imagery over time.

The Block’s winter exhibitions and programs are supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, as well as the Terra Foundation on behalf of William Osborn and David Kabiller, the Myers Foundations and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Additional funding comes from the Carlyle Anderson Endowment, the Alsdorf Gallery Endowment, the Norton S. Walbridge Fund, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Louise E. Drangsholt Fund, the Kessel Fund at the Block Museum, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.


Block Cinema Screening, “Salt of the Earth,” 2 p.m. Saturday, March 1, (Herbert J. Biberman, 1954, United States, 35mm, 94 minutes). Made by an alliance of blacklisted artists, “Salt of the Earth” is based on the true story of a 1950s New Mexico miners’ strike against the Empire Zinc Corporation. Years ahead of its time, the film is a compelling indictment of racism (most of the miners were Mexican-American) and sexism. When the miners face an injunction it’s their wives – despite opposition from the men -- who take to the picket lines to protest poverty-level wages and inhumane living and working conditions. After the film ran short of funds, it was financed in part by the Mine-Mill union. The film was deemed Communist propaganda by the “Hollywood Reporter” and was investigated by the U.S. House of Representatives and the FBI.

Block Cinema Screening, “City Streets,” 7 p.m. Friday, March 7 (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931, United States, 35mm, 83 minutes). “City Streets” is a Prohibition-era table (from a story by “Maltese Falcon” author Dashiell Hammett) about Nan (Sylvia Sidney), a gangster’s stepdaughter, and The Kid (Gary Cooper), a displaced cowboy working at a carnival sideshow. Nan wants The Kid to leave his small-potatoes job and join the mob so they can get married. A murder, Nan’s arrest and a lecherous mob boss stand in their way. Cooper’s early aw-shucks reserve transforms into cool-headed determination. Sidney, glamorous and spunky, is captivating in her first major role. Director Rouben Mamoulian (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Mark of Zorro”) was one of the great innovators of early sound cinema, and his dynamic visual style is on full display in this crime film.

Block Cinema Screening, “Body and Soul” featuring an introduction by J. Hoberman, film critic at The New York Times, 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8 (Herbert J. Biberman, 1954, United States, 35mm, 104 minutes). John Garfield gives a career-defining performance as an up-and-coming Jewish boxer who dreams of becoming a champ to raise himself out of the crushing poverty of New York’s Lower East Side. His ambitions are tested when he is pressured to take a fall in a fixed fight. An anti-capitalist film, “Body and Soul” is a cautionary tale about greed and consumerism, seen through the lens of corruption in the boxing world. Directed by Robert Rossen, the film inspired countless boxing films, including “Raging Bull.” Writer Abraham Polonsky and three cast members, including Garfield, were soon blacklisted. Film critic and author J. Hoberman called the film “not only the reddest movie Hollywood ever produced but the most Jewish one since the original ‘Jazz Singer.’” The 35mm restored print is courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Following the screening, Hoberman will discuss the impact of leftist Jewish filmmakers on Hollywood. For more information, visit the Block Museum of Art.

Guest lecture, Vasif Kortun of SALT,” 2 p.m. Saturday, March 15, Block Museum. Recognized by Art Review as “Turkey’s de facto arts spokesperson to the rest of the world,” Vasif Kortun’s work has been transformative for the contemporary Turkish art scene. An Istanbul-based writer, curator and teacher in the field of contemporary visual art, Kortun will address questions of art and urban change as he considers Istanbul’s public spaces and architecture, focusing in particular on Gezi Park in the history of Taksim Square. Kortun is the director of research and programs at SALT, Istanbul, a not-for-profit institution in Turkey, which, along with hosting exhibitions, conferences, and public programs, engages in interdisciplinary research and sustains a library and archive of recent art, architecture, design, urbanism and social and economic histories for research and public use. Following Kortun's presentation, Esra Akcan, associate professor and the director of graduate studies at the department of art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will lead a Q-and-A with the curator. This program and Kortun's visit to Northwestern is hosted in partnership with the Block Museum, Buffett Center and the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program. For more information, visit the Block Museum of Art and the Nafas Art Magazine article about SALT. 


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, first floor, 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, contact the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email


“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964,” through April 1, Dittmar Gallery. The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, “Bittersweet Harvest” includes 15 freestanding illustrated banners in a bilingual exhibition that combines recent scholarship, powerful photographs from the Smithsonian’s collection and audio excerpts by former bracero workers. The exhibit will be the centerpiece of a series of events that will take place across Northwestern’s Evanston campus related to Latin American immigration to the United States. Initiated in August 1942, the Bracero Program grew out of a series of agreements between the United States and Mexico that allowed tens of thousands of Mexicans to work as temporary contract laborers in the United States to fill labor deficiencies in agriculture and railroad work. By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.5 million contracts had been awarded. The Bracero Program is considered “bittersweet” because of its history of both exploitation and opportunity. Related events on the Evanston campus will include conversations with former braceros currently living in the Chicago area, public lectures, a film series and dance performances.

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program” was organized by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Funding was provided by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation, is a proud sponsor of these public programs.

Sponsors include Metlife Foundation, Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964, Evanston Public Library, The Smithsonian Community Grant program, the President's Office, the Provost's Office, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, American Studies Program, Latina and Latino Studies Program, department of history, department of performance studies, Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program, Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, department of radio/television/film, and the Center for Screen Cultures. For more, visit the Latina and Latino Studies Program.


The department of art theory and practice at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences offers free public lectures by visiting artists throughout the academic year. For more, visit Art Theory & Practice.


Exhibitions at Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, are 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. 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.

“Two Degrees and You: An NU Approach to Climate Change,” through March 21, 2014, University Library, Main Level. Northwestern University is home to vast book, map, digital and archival resources that explore and respond to climate change. This exhibit highlights Northwestern researchers’ approaches to climate change through science, innovative engineering, student initiatives and strategic imperatives to reduce greenhouse gases and develop clean energies.

“Tune in Again: How Three Northwestern Co-eds Created One of Radio’s First Soap Operas,” through March 21, Deering Library, Main Lobby, 1935 Sheridan Road, Northwestern University, Evanston campus. From 1930 to 1946, the daily conversations of three ordinary, working-class housewives -- exchanged over the back fence or during a kitchen-table kaffe-klatch -- fascinated thousands of radio listeners across the U.S. But the true drama of the “Clara, Lu ‘n’ Em Show” lay in the fact that these countrified ladies were invented and portrayed by accomplished, well-educated alumnae of Northwestern University’s School of Speech (now School of Communication), who wrote every script. Featuring documents, scripts, posters, photographs and artifacts, this exhibit revives not only the show, but also an era when radio drama was still developing, and when homespun housewives had an appeal later superseded by steamier characters and plots as the soap opera format matured. The free exhibit is open to the public during Deering Library’s regular hours.

“Ancient Monuments of Rome: Reconstructions by the Students of the Academie Francaise de Rome,” through June 20, Deering Library, Third Floor Lobby. From the time of the French Revolution to the beginning of the 20th century, the French architecture student winners of the Grand Prix scholarship to study at the French Academy in Rome were obliged to produce reconstructions of an ancient monument. In the 1870s, a half-dozen of the best and most interesting of these were engraved and published by the French government at great expense. This display, drawn from Northwestern’s McCormick Library of Special Collections by art history professor David Van Zanten, illustrates how such an archeological reconstruction have changed conceptions and techniques.

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