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Northwestern Visual Arts in February

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

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An exhibition about American radical art from 1929 to 1940, and a show exploring and comparing the photographic legacies of Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art are among Northwestern University’s February visual arts events.

Other visual arts events are also being offered by Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery, 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 One Book Northwestern


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 the Block Museum 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 the Block Museum.

“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.


Screening and Q-and-A with Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Artist-in-Residence S. Leo Chiang, 5:15 p.m. Thursday Feb. 20. Chiang is an Emmy-nominated documentarian whose work focuses on immigrant and LGBT issues. He is currently a fellow at the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. A screening of Chiang’s “Mr. Cao Goes To Washington” will be followed by a Q-and-A with the director, moderated by Beth Lew-Williams, visiting assistant professor of history and Asian-American studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Poetry reading by Mark Nowak, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. Nowak, a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, poet, playwright, essayist and cultural critic and labor activist who has led workshops with autoworkers in St. Paul, Minn. and South Africa; domestic workers in New York and London; and taxi drivers. Along with a reading on campus, Nowak will conduct a workshop with workers from Evanston and Chicago.


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 or visit


“HUB” by Amanda Burnham, through Feb. 9, Dittmar Gallery. Burnham’s site-specific room-size installation calls attention to the ever-changing composition of American cityscapes and their simultaneously beautiful and discordant attributes. Using various types of paper and thick black paint, her massive three-dimensional drawings will allude to both Northwestern and Evanston.

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964,” Feb. 20 through March 30, 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. The five-week exhibition and a 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 opening ceremony at the Dittmar Gallery featuring a conversation with former bracero workers are free and open to the public. 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 and 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 the Northwestern University Library 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,” Feb. 3 through March 21, 2014, 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, 2014, 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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