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Northwestern Visual Arts and Films in May

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

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A lecture by a visiting Trinidad-based artist and writer, an exhibition about American radical art from 1929 to 1940, and a re-imagining of the original American Artists’ Congress, which took place in 1936, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art are among Northwestern University’s May visual arts events.

Block Cinema will host a series of socially conscious films from the 1930s that coincide with the museum’s “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” as well as new films about the art world and two special programs  -- “Sonic Celluloid” and an A&O screening of Mike Nichol’s 1967 film “The Graduate.”

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery will host the 2014 Art Theory and Practice Senior Exhibition that opens in mid-May and runs through mid-June; and Northwestern University Library and the Deering Library will be the sites of an exhibition marking 20 years of democracy in South Africa and the end of apartheid.


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 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 information, visit 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 Block Museum.

“In the Mind of the Beholder: An Experiment in Perception” in the Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery, through May 4. Curated by Aleksandra Sherman, a Northwestern doctoral candidate in the department of psychology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, this experimental exhibition explores how the subjective experience of viewing may be “in the eye of the beholder.” The exhibit combines art with sound to emphasize the role of the environment and mood in shaping the perception of art. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests the importance of context -- both environmental and subjective -- in shaping our visual experience. To emphasize the importance of context in art perception, visitors will hear an emotionally powerful soundtrack as they view Alan Cohen’s photographs taken at memorial sites. Visitors will be encouraged to reflect on and log their personal experience as part of the exhibition. To view one of the exhibition’s images, visit Block Museum

MFA Thesis Exhibition, May 1 through June 22, in the Block Museum’s Alsdorf Gallery. This exhibition presents the work of Northwestern students Caroline Carlsmith, Jason Dixon, Raphael Fleuriet, TJ Proechel and Nicole Wilson and culminates their Master of Fine Arts (MFA) studies in the department of art theory and practice at Northwestern University. Bringing together five distinct practices, it acknowledges the artists’ shared foundations, including research, experimentation, environment and experience. The annual exhibition is co-organized by the department of art theory and practice and the Block Museum. The exhibition and an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 1, are free and open to the public.


Free guided weekend tours of the Block Museum’s exhibitions will be held at 1 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through June 22. Tours for classes and groups of eight or more are also available with advance notice. To arrange a group tour, email, or click here for more information.


The following events are free and open to the public.

Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities: Artist-in-Residence Lecture with Christopher Cozier, 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. The work of Trinidadian artist, curator and writer Christopher Cozier examines the contemporary Caribbean experience through drawing, printmaking, sound and installation. A Prince Claus 2013 Award recipient, Cozier will discuss his practice within a broader temporal, geographic and transcultural context.

Art Theory and Practice Visiting Artist Talk by Kerry Tribe, “The Talking Dead: Index, Amnesia and the Afterlife of Film,” 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 14. An award-winning artist, Tribe’s work in film, video and installation serve as meditations on cognition, using image, text and sound to explore what she calls “the phenomenology of memory.”

What is Revolutionary Art Today? An Artists' Congress, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 17 with social to follow. The Artists’ Congress is an interdisciplinary public forum bringing together artists, scholars and activists to address contemporary issues of art and social change. Organized in conjunction with the Block Museum’s current exhibition “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929–1940,” the Congress takes Left Front member Louis Lozowick’s question "What Should Revolutionary Artists Do Today?” as its inspiration. Developed collaboratively with faculty and artists working across disciplines, the event will include presentations ranging from Northwestern art history faculty member Christina Kiaer speaking on the Artists’ Union in Russia, to School of the Art Institute, Chicago professor Romi Crawford addressing London’s Speaker’s Corner. The Congress is being organized by Susy Bielak, artist, writer and associate director of engagement/curator of public practice at the Block Museum; Daniel Tucker, artist, writer and organizer of “Never the Same,” an oral history and archive project on Chicago’s socially-engaged art practices; and Michael Rakowitz, artist and faculty in Northwestern’s department of art, theory and practice. The event has been made possible by the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. For more information, visit Block Museum.

Art Theory and Practice Visiting Artist Talk, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Curating and Radical Optimism” by Lucia Sanroman, 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, Block Museum’s Pick-Laudati Auditorium. Sanroman, an independent curator, writer and co-curator of SITE Santa Fe’s "SITElines 2014: Unsettled Landscapes" biennial exhibition series, will talk about her current practice of investigating aesthetics in relation to efficacy and public practice. New Mexico’s new biennial exhibition, which opens July 17 and runs through January 2015, explores contemporary art through three themes -- landscape, territory and trade.

Photography and the Archive in the African Diaspora: A Symposium, 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 22. Leading scholars and artists, including Tina Campt, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and director of Africana Studies at Barnard College; Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University; Roshini Kempadoo, a London-based contemporary media artist and lecturer, and Jacqueline Stewart, professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, will explore how photographic archives inform history, memory, artistic, photographic and performative practices in the African diaspora while offering new perspectives on photography more generally. This event has been made possible thanks to generous support from Northwestern University’s department of art history, the Myers Funds, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Black Arts Initiative, the Center for African American History (CAAH), and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. Free and open to the public. For more information, visit Block Museum.


Block Cinema films are screened in the Block Museum’s Pick-Laudati Auditorium. Unless noted, admission is $4 for Block members and University faculty, staff and students with valid WildCARD IDs, students from other schools with valid college/university IDs and seniors 65 and older; or $6 for the general public. A quarterly pass is $20. Parking is free in the Evanston campus lot south of the Block Museum after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends. For a full schedule of films, visit Block Museum.

Heroes and Hoovervilles: Films of the Depression coincides with the Block Museum’s current Main Gallery exhibition, “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” This Block Cinema companion film series features socially conscious films from the 1930s, covering issues of unemployment and labor struggles, poverty and homeless camps (or “Hoovervilles” as they were known), xenophobia, anti-war sentiment and the growing need for social security and reform.

Art On Screen is an ongoing series that presents new films about the art world.

Block Cinema, Heroes and Hoovervilles: Films of the Depression, “Mills of the Gods” (Roy William Neill, 1934, United States, 35mm, 66 minutes), 7 p.m. Friday, May 2. Fay Wray plays Jean Hastings, the wealthy and spoiled scion of a factory-owning family led by her irrepressible grandmother. Sparks fly when Jean meets Jim Devlin, the labor leader who is spearheading a tense worker’s strike against the factory. After circumstances force Jean and Jim to spend a night together in his cabin, she begins questioning her family’s ruthless tactics. This Columbia pre-Code film includes an explosive depiction of labor strife.

Block Cinema screening, Art on Screen series, “Hunting Hitler's Stolen Treasures: The Monuments Men” (Rebecca Hayman and Paul Nelson, 2014, United Kingdom, video, 45 minutes), 7 p.m. Thursday, May 8. The Northwestern University Library and Block Cinema will present a short documentary and panel discussion about an unlikely World War II band of brothers: academics, historians and architects who were called to the front lines of the bloodiest war in history to rescue centuries worth of priceless artworks and cultural artifacts from Nazi-occupied Europe. Following the screening, art scholar and curator Anne Rorimer, daughter of one of the primary “monuments men,” James Rorimer, as well as Jason Nargis, Manuscript Librarian for Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, and Howard Trienens, attorney, author and repatriation expert, will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Block Museum Director, Lisa Corrin.

Block Cinema Special Event, Sonic Celluloid, 8 p.m. Friday, May 9. Sonic Celluloid is a collaboration between WNUR, Northwestern's student-run, non-commercial radio station (89.3 FM), and Block Cinema. Now in its 12th year, Sonic Celluloid features musicians performing live with their own original compositions or improvised scores to silent and experimental films of their choosing. Performers this year include Mark McGuire, Kwaidan and Vertonen. Approximate running time is two hours. It will be loud! Special thanks to Gillian Levy, Jenna Powell-Malloy, Harlynn Siler and Ethan David Simonoff of WNUR for organizing.

Block Cinema, Art on Screen, “Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq,” (Nancy Buirski, 2014, United States, DCP, 91 minutes) 7 p.m. Friday, May 16. Le Clercq was an influential star of American ballet and a muse for famed choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Her elongated frame and unique style helped redefine ballet in the mid-century, but her career was cut short in her 20s when she was stricken with polio in 1956. Nancy Buirski’s new documentary tells the story of Le Clercq’s amazing career and her life afterwards as she continued to shape the world of dance through her teaching, despite being paralyzed from the waist down.

Block Cinema, Heroes and Hoovervilles, “Black Legion,” 7 p.m. Friday, May 23 (Archie Mayo, 1937, United States, 35mm, 83 minutes. Humphrey Bogart stars as Frank Taylor, a machinist who is passed over for a promotion in favor of a Polish immigrant. A co-worker goads Taylor with racist hate-speak and invites him to join the titular xenophobic hooded order. “Black Legion” is a cautionary and at times terrifying tale inspired by real events. Though Warner Bros. stopped the story just short of implicating the political influence of right wing hate groups, a studio’s willingness to take on such charged material was unusual. A decade later Bogart would be one of the first in Hollywood to speak out against the persecution of the leftist filmmakers known as the Hollywood Ten.

Block Cinema, Special Program, A&O Films Presents, “The Graduate” (Mike Nichols, 1967, United States, 35mm, 106 minutes) 7 p.m. Thursday, May 29, FREE. Nichols’ anti-establishment classic still resonates nearly 50 years later, partly because its social critique comes from within the world of privilege and conformity, rather than the radical fringe. Dustin Hoffman gives a star-making performance as Benjamin Braddock, a young college grad beset by apathy and a lack of direction. He begins an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, who steals the film. The film’s deadpan-humor and scathing look at mid-20th century moral emptiness is given ironic counterpoint by Simon and Garfunkel’s buoyant soundtrack.

Block Cinema, Heroes and Hoovervilles: Films of the Depression, “Make Way for Tomorrow,” (Leo McCarey, 1937, United States, 35mm, 91 minutes), 7 p.m. Friday, May 30. Best known for his comedies, McCarey’s masterpiece is a heart-wrenching and perfectly realized family drama. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi play a devoted elderly couple who lose their home and may be forced to live separately unless one of their adult children agrees to take them both in. McCarey handles the story with a sensitivity rarely afforded to the aged on screen, and Moore and Bondi give performances that are devastating in their subtlety and emotional economy.


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, first floor, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Northwestern University, 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 Dittmar Memorial Gallery.


 “New Americans: Our Mutual Improvement and Social Elevation” by Jason Patterson, through May 11, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Through slavery, black people were forced to play an integral role in the birth and cultivation of the United States. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments (also known as the “Reconstruction Amendments”) and the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the condition of slavery was replaced with cultural, economic, moral and legal oppression. Patterson’s exhibition is a stylized, contemporary examination of images emerging from a specific period in American history -- a collection of portraits rendered after 19th century tintypes, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. It intends to glorify that new age, focusing on the hope, potential freedom and happiness many former slaves and previously freed Black citizens envisioned after the Civil War. The exhibit is an idealized history and is not meant to tell a comprehensive history.

Art Theory and Practice Senior Exhibition, “Purgatory,” May 16 through June 13, Dittmar Gallery, Norris University Center. This Northwestern University student group exhibition showcases the culminating work of this year’s senior class of art theory and practice majors. The show investigates the role of the in-between, encompassing moments of distancing, breaking away and fracturing. The “Purgatory” exhibition and an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 16, are free and open to the public.


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 Northwestern University Library or call (847) 491-7658. 

“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.

“From Apartheid to Democracy,” through Aug. 29, Northwestern University Library and Deering Library. Northwestern University Library is marking 20 years of democracy in South Africa. This exhibition not only explores South Africa’s first democratic election and 20 years of democracy but also looks at Northwestern’s role in the global anti-Apartheid movement. The exhibit includes artifacts as diverse as anti-Apartheid posters, an app of humorous South African political cartoons and the first 1994 election ballot. For more information about related film presentations and lectures, visit Appartheid to Democracy.

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