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Visual Arts at Northwestern

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

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art has opened its galleries for the 2014-15 season with the work of internationally renowned Kenyan-born and New York-based artist and sculptor Wangechi Mutu, one of world’s most important contemporary artists.

The Block is hosting the first U.S. survey of Mutu’s work, which was organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and it will be the touring exhibition’s sole Midwest region venue.

“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” runs through Dec. 7 and includes rarely-seen early works, new creations, sketches and the artist’s first-ever animated video, titled “The End of eating Everything,” featuring singer/songwriter Santigold. The Block will screen this video through Nov. 30. The Block also has planned other free events that will complement “A Fantastic Journey,” including film screenings, interdisciplinary gallery talks and a lecture by Wangechi Mutu on Sept. 27 as part of the Opening Day Celebration. DOWNLOAD PHOTOS HERE

In addition to screening films that inspired artist Wangechi Mutu, Block Cinema will also pay homage to Henri Langlois (1914-1977), a founder, director and curator of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, one of the world’s most celebrated film archives. Langlois was responsible for saving countless films from destruction by the Nazis or decay due to indifference and neglect. An in-person appearance by British experimental filmmaker John Smith is also planned this fall. To view Block Cinema’s complete fall screening schedule online, visit

Dittmar Memorial Gallery is hosting lens-based artist Priscilla Briggs’ “Making Mona Lisa” exhibition through Oct. 24. It offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the global commercial art industry and its painters in southeast China. It will be followed by “Chicago Games as Art & Culture,” Oct. 30 to Dec. 2, curated by Thomas Rousse and featuring five artists, which will mark the first exhibit of digital interactive work at the Dittmar.

Weinberg College’s department of art theory and practice has scheduled two visiting artist lectures in October that will take place in the Block Museum’s auditorium.

 University Library celebrates the Northwestern University Marching Band’s showmanship and dedication in a new exhibit timed to welcome back students and draw proud alumni during Homecoming Week (Oct. 12-18). “Pride and Guts: Northwestern University Marching Band,” runs through Dec. 19, at Northwestern University Library and the Deering Library.


Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. For more information, visit or call 847-491-4000.


• Free tours for groups of five or more people can be pre-arranged. Requests should be made at least four weeks in advance. For more information, email or visit - sthash.jLP1QlHj.dpuf.

• Gallery tours for higher education groups and kindergarten through high school classes also are available. For more information, visit - sthash.PsE49nv7.dpuf.

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


“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey,” through Dec. 7, Main Gallery and Alsdorf Gallery. Spanning the mid-1990s to the present, the Mutu exhibition will include more than 50 pieces ranging from the artist’s most iconic collages to rarely seen early works and new creations. The artist also will transform parts of the Block’s main gallery into an environmental installation during her campus visit. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mutu is best known for large-scale collages depicting mythic female figures in lush, otherworldly landscapes. Her work explores issues of colonialism, gender, globalization, race, war and the black female body. She often combines found materials and magazine cutouts with sculpture and painted imagery, sampling from sources as diverse as African traditions, international politics, the fashion industry and science fiction.

The retrospective was organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art.

“Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Major support is provided by Marilyn M. Arthur, the Ford Foundation, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Katherine Thorpe and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Additional generous support was provided by Duke University’s Council for the Arts; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

Support for the presentation at the Block Museum has been provided by the Diane and Craig Solomon Contemporary Art Fund and an anonymous donor.

Additional generous support has been provided by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For more information, visit

“Ecological Looking: Sustainability and the End(s) of the Earth,” through Nov. 30, Katz Gallery. This exhibition, curated by Northwestern art history Ph.D student Jacob Leveton, considers representations of industry -- mining, agriculture, oil extraction and refining -- through an ecological lens. Combining prints and photographs from the Block's permanent collection and examples from Northwestern’s Herskovits Library of African Studies, and framed by thought-provoking quotations from critical thinkers and writers, the exhibition considers the impact industrial practices have had on the planet. Support for exhibitions in the Katz Gallery is provided by Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz, the Norton S. Walbridge Fund, and contributors to the Annual Fund. For more information, visit


The Block offers a unique context for Wangechi Mutu’s work, as Northwestern curricula frequently explore issues of racial stereotyping, femininity and sexuality, and environmental destruction. To highlight these connections and offer a multi-faceted experience of the exhibition, the Block has collaborated with the Women’s Center, the department of African American studies, Multicultural Student Affairs and One Book One Northwestern, among others.

• Opening Day Celebration, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, Artist Talk at 2:30 p.m. at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive. Mutu will provide an overview of her work and participate in a conversation with Northwestern’s Huey Copeland, associate professor of art history.

 • Screening of “Wangechi Mutu: The End of eating Everything,” 8-minute, 10-second on-loop animated video (color and sound), edition of six, courtesy of the artist, Gladstone Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery, will be continuously screened 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 through Nov. 30, at the Block Museum’s Alsdorf Gallery. The animated video was commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University as part of “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey,” the first survey in the United States for this internationally renowned, multidisciplinary artist. Expanding on the drawing practice that underlies all her work, Mutu’s first-ever animated video features a magical, destructive creature played by the like-minded musical performer and recording artist Santigold. For this film, Santigold takes on the role of an insatiable planet-like creature, covered with flailing arms, tentacles and spores that emit polluting smoke. Reflecting on overindulgence and consumption, the video closes with a message that is at once apocalyptic and hopeful. The presentation of “The End of eating Everything” at the Block Museum is made possible by James Geier and 555 International, the Diane and Craig Solomon Contemporary Art Fund, and the Alsdorf Gallery at the Block Museum Quasi-Endowment.

• Curators in Conversation: Notes towards documenta in Kassel in 2017, 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at McCormick Auditorium, Norris University Center. Polish-born art critic, curator and newly-appointed artistic director of documenta 14 Adam Szymczyk will discuss the conceptual framework of the next documenta exhibition for the first time in the US. He will be joined in conversation by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Northwestern visiting professor and former artistic director of documenta in 2012.

• Art Theory and Practice Visiting Artist Talk and Screening: John Smith in Person, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Block Museum. Join Northwestern’s department of art theory and practice and Block Cinema for a film screening and discussion with London-based, experimental filmmaker John Smith.

• Block Cinema “Fantastic Voyages” Series Screening: “Space Is the Place” (John Coney, 1974, United States, 35mm, 85 minutes), 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, at the Block Museum. This Afrofuturistic extravaganza, directed by Coney, stars the inimitable jazz musician and far-out futurist Sun Ra, who travels through space and time to save the black race while pursued by the FBI.

• Curator’s Talk: On “Ecological Looking,” 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Block Museum. Join Jacob Leveton, art history Ph.D student and curator of “Ecological Looking: Sustainability & the End(s) of the Earth,” for an in-gallery conversation that will bring together art, historical, scientific and activist perspectives.

• Block Cinema “Fantastic Voyages” Series Screening, “Fantastic Planet” (Renee Laloux, 1973, France and Czechoslovakia, 35mm, 72 minutes), 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Block Museum. Rene Laloux’s animated cult classic “Fantastic Planet” -- which inspired artist Mutu’s video ‘The End of eating Everything” -- shows a terrifying future in which human-like beings are kept as pets or exterminated by giant blue creatures. Please note: Due to its violent and sexual content this film may be unsuitable for younger audiences.

• Panel Discussion, “Voyaging the Fantastic, Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism in Wangechi Mutu and Contemporary Black Art,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Block Museum. Moderated by Northwestern faculty member Alexander Weheliye, this roundtable will bring together preeminent Chicago-based black artists D. Denenge Akpem, Krista Franklin and Ayanah Moor for a conversation that takes Mutu’s work as a springboard for consideration of the place of Afrosurrealism and Afrofuturism in contemporary black art.

• Department of Art History’s Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture Series: The Ise Shrines and the Metabolism of Japanese Architecture, 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the Block Museum. Japan's Ise Shrines have been entirely rebuilt almost every 20 years since the late 7th century. Yukio Lippit, professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard University, will consider the various ways in which their \"renewal\" has been understood throughout history.

• Panel Discussion, “Deploying and Shattering Stereotypes,” 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Block Museum. Joy Bivins, curator, Chicago History Museum and organizer of the recent exhibition, “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair;” Maud Lavin, faculty member and cultural historian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Kathleen Bickford Berzock, the Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs and an expert on African art, will explore Mutu’s work as a starting point for considering and challenging stereotypes around women and the body, blackness and what it is to be African.

• Interdisciplinary Gallery Talk, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Block Museum.

Join Melika Bass, Northwestern faculty member, department of radio/television/film; Antawan Byrd, Northwestern Ph.D. candidate in art history; and Sakhile Matlhare, Northwestern Ph.D. in sociology, as they bring their diverse perspectives to an in-gallery conversation about the exhibition “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.”


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


“Making Mona Lisa” by Priscilla Briggs, through Oct. 24. Lens-based artist Priscilla Briggs uses her camera to examine the shifts in identity and values in the global market system. Her solo exhibition focuses on the Wushipu and Haicang oil-painting communities of Xiamen, China -- a billion-dollar industry -- and how mass production has changed the understanding of authorship, authenticity, labor and the artist. Briggs’ work contemplates mass production’s influence on labor practices as they relate to art and craft. Her Dittmar show includes still-life photographs of the Chinese artists’ studios where they live and work as well as oil paintings by various artists of Briggs’ photographic portraits of the workers. It is a combination that brings attention to the ways in which the replica is created for the global tourist trade and draws attention to art as laborious work. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Chicago Games as Art & Culture,” Oct. 30 through Dec. 2, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. “Chicago Games” invites visitors to reconsider the power and vibrancy of video games as a medium for artistic expression through the work of local creators. The city of Chicago, the worldwide hub of arcade manufacturing and distribution in the second half of the 20th century, now hosts an exciting new wave of independent game designers poised to retake gaming's crown. The exhibition showcases the work of Greg Wohlwend, Rob Lach, Patrick Segura, Brian Patrick Franklin and Christopher Wille. Their contributions, curated by Thomas Rousse of GAMESat.NU (a group of graduate and undergraduates students who sponsor game activities on Northwestern’s campus), speak to the protean nature of games as art, spanning themes from acceptance to bodily disorientation and technologies from pixel-art to virtual reality. “Chicago Games” marks the first exhibit of digital interactive work at Dittmar Memorial Gallery.” The exhibition and the Oct. 30 opening reception are free and open to the public.


Exhibitions at Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus, are open to the public daily. 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.

“Pride and Guts: Northwestern University Marching Band,” runs through Dec. 19, at Northwestern University Library and the Deering Library. University Library celebrates the Northwestern University Marching Band’s showmanship and dedication in a new exhibit timed to welcome back students to campus and draw proud alumni during Homecoming Week (Oct. 12-18). Curators scoured University Archives to find the artifacts that tell the story of the band, from its first appearance as a marching unit in 1911 to the present day, complete with historical uniforms, dashing shako hats and twirlers’ batons. The exhibit also pays homage to two legendary figures -- Glenn Cliffe Bainum and John P. Paynter -- the ensemble’s first two band directors and both towering figures in Northwestern music history. Admission is free and open to the public. For more 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 after 4 p.m. in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and additional parking information, visit

Topics: Visual Arts
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