Skip to main content

Visual Arts at Northwestern in February and More

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

  • Block Museum’s Charlotte Moorman exhibition examines the artist’s life and work
  • Block’s “Don’t Throw Anything Out” offers a rare look at Moorman’s private world
  • Deering exhibits showcase Charlotte Moorman and Northwestern’s Transportation Library
  • Dittmar Gallery hosting Ali Aschman’s “Unnatural Growth” exhibition through Feb. 10

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art continues to host a blockbuster exhibition that pays homage to Charlotte Moorman -- a musician, performance artist and advocate of the avant-garde.

The Block Museum’s Main Gallery show, “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s-1980s,” which runs through July 17, 2016, is the first major exhibition exploring the art and impact of Moorman. It examines her life, her work, her influence and the vast network of artists across creative fields who were her collaborators in the 1960s through 1980s. 

The Block also is hosting “Don't Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman's Archive,” through July 17, 2016, in the Katz Gallery, an auxiliary exhibition that offers a rare look at Moorman’s private world. 

The Block has planned a variety of public performances, conversations and presentations to help the public discover why Charlotte Moorman was called both the “Joan of Arc of New Music” and the “Topless Cellist.” Detailed information on these programs follows. 

The upcoming winter and spring 2016 events will provide opportunities to meet artists who participated in Moorman's Annual Avant Garde festivals in New York and experience experimental performances of works by composers such as John Cage and Nam June Paik.

In conjunction with the Block exhibitions, Northwestern’s Deering Library is presenting “Charlotte’s Scene: Archives of the Avant Garde at Northwestern Libraries,” through July 17, 2016. The exhibit features highlights from four University archives related to Charlotte Moorman and her times: John Cage, Dick Higgins, Jim McWilliams and the ONCE Festival. 

Information on Block Cinema Winter 2016 screenings available online.

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery’s “Unnatural Growth” exhibition runs through Feb. 10. It features animations, sculptures and works on paper by Chicago-based and South African-born multidisciplinary artist Ali Aschman. 

The Dittmar upcoming exhibition, featuring the work of “Afro-urban” and Chicago-based artist Marcellous Lovelace, “#Biko 70 Lumumba Blacker than Space,” opens Feb. 15 and runs through March 20. Lovelace’s work “tells the story of people who are overlooked inside a segregated and biased space overcome by poverty, food deserts, worthless education and a police state of hatred.” 

The following Northwestern events will take place on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. All are free and open to the public. 


Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on the University’s Evanston campus. More information on Block exhibitions and events is available online or by calling 847-491-4000. 


“A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s” exhibition, through July 17, 2016, Block Museum, Main Gallery, 40 Arts Circle Drive. Charlotte Moorman (1933–1991) was a groundbreaking, rule-bending artist, musician and advocate for the experimental art of her time. Trained as a classical cellist, she both performed and championed the works of visual artists, composers and choreographers who were redefining art -- collapsing the boundaries between media and renegotiating the relationships between artist and audience. The Block exhibition explores her performances, the festivals she produced and her commitment to making experimental art accessible to all.

  • Don't Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman's Archive,” through July 17, 2016, Block Museum, Katz Gallery. This auxiliary exhibition offers a rare look at Moorman’s private world and includes relics as diverse as childhood essays, answering machine messages, gifts from artist friends and poignant day-by-day accounts of her struggle with cancer. Culled from Northwestern's Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections where the Charlotte Moorman Archive is housed, this exhibition illuminates Moorman's domestic world and working methods and shows her extraordinary dedication to the documentation of her life and artistic milieu. 

The exhibitions are accompanied by a lively menu of lectures, performances, film screenings, artist conversations and pop-up happenings around Northwestern, Evanston and beyond. Unless otherwise noted, admission to Block Museum public programs is free and open to all. Details available online.


  • Conversation and Performance, Choreographer Simone Forti: Thinking with the Body, 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, The GYM, 640 Lincoln St. (Art Theory & Practice Building)How can we develop a natural and intuitive flow between moving and speaking? What do we learn when our body intelligence and our verbal mind interact? Renowned experimental dancer, choreographer and writer Simone Forti will discuss the relationship between dance and language, daily movement and performance in an interview with visiting scholar Amanda Jane Graham, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies. A student performance will include “Huddle,” Forti’s seminal 1961 work, which was included in Charlotte Moorman’s Avant Garde festivals in New York. This interdisciplinary program is co-sponsored by Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of art history, and art theory and practice; the School of Communication’s department of performance studies and dance program; Mellon Dance Studies; and Northwestern’s Poetry & Poetics Colloquium. Admission is free. 
  • Lecture Demonstration: “Dear George...Love, Charlotte”: Fluxus in the Annual Avant Garde Festivals, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, Block Museum. “Dear George… Love Charlotte” will illuminate parts of a social and aesthetic network that connected Charlotte Moorman and the Annual Avant Garde Festivals to Fluxus (an art movement launched in 1961), despite the protestations of Fluxus’ major-domo, George Maciunas. Originating Fluxus artists such as Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins and Jackson Mac Low were regular participants; Yoko Ono, Emmett Williams and George Brecht were represented in performance. Some Fluxus artists picketed the festival in 1964, others performed in it -- a number did both. This international Fluxus family argued, celebrated and created together or through the mail. Incorporating readings and events, Simon Anderson, associate professor of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Fluxus historian, will discuss their antics and perform some of their work, revealing a few of the elements that divided and conjoined these artists during this transformational period.
  • Performance by Tomeka Reid, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, Block Museum. The repertoire of Chicago-based cellist, composer and educator Tomeka Reid, like that of Charlotte Moorman, spans classical and experimental music. Reid performs internationally with some of today’s most creative musicians, including Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ Great Black Music Ensemble, the string trio Hear in Now, and the Tomeka Reid Quartet, featuring bassist Jason Roebke, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. She has also worked with forward-thinking musicians, including Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell and Mike Reed, and has composed commissioned works for the AACM, the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. For this event, Reid will perform live in conjunction with the Block Museum exhibition “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s.” This program is co-sponsored by the Black Arts Initiative.
  • Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Lecture Series: Timothy Ingold, 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, Block Museum. In this lecture, Timothy Ingold formulates an alternative to occidental aesthetics by drawing on the knowledge and experience of indigenous peoples of the circumpolar North. Here, beauty is found in the movements of skilled practitioners who respond fluently, with sensitivity and precision, to the nuances of their relationships with human and non-humans. Ingold is chair of social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The program is organized by Northwestern’s department of art history.

MARCH 2016 

  • Lecture Demonstration: Moorman, Cage and the Avant-Garde, 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, Block Museum. Using Charlotte Moorman’s own annotated copy of John Cage’s “26’ 1.1499” for a String Player” as inspiration, this program explores her realization of Cage’s indeterminate score. Musicologist Ben Piekut, associate professor of musicology at Cornell University and author of the acclaimed book “Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits,” will share his perspective on the piece and Moorman’s place within the historical moment of the 1960s avant-garde. To complement the program, Jason Rosenholtz-Witt, Northwestern Ph.D., candidate in musicology, and his colleagues will perform excerpts from the score and consider the specific challenges presented by the work and Moorman’s unique approach. This program is presented in partnership with Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music.
  • Performance: The Avant-Garde and the Politics of Music, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive; 7:30 p.m. Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater in the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, 70 Arts Circle Drive. Charlotte Moorman’s repertoire of performance and musical compositions, and that of many other members of the avant-garde in the 1960s and 1970s, reflected the prevailing social and political upheavals of the time, including the anti-war, civil rights and feminist movements. Like many artists today, her art was a means of responding to the world around her. Join the Block, students from the Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music and the Bienen Contemporary Music Ensemble for an evening of socially-engaged performance. The program will begin at the Block, followed by a concert at the Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater in the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. The Contemporary Music Ensemble will perform Georg Friedrich Haas’ “in vain” (2000), in response to the rise of the right wing Freedom Party in Austria. A new work by Craig Davis Pinson, Northwestern Ph.D., student in composition, also will debut during the evening. This program is presented in partnership with the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University.

APRIL 2016 

  • Symposium: Performed in the Present Tense, 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 8, in the GYM at 640 Lincoln St. (art theory and practice building), and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive. “Performed in the Present Tense” is a two-day symposium that investigates the contemporary legacy of Charlotte Moorman’s performances and her dedication to creating forums for experimental, collaborative and boundary-breaking artistic practices. The symposium features artists, curators and scholars who have engaged with (re) performance, performance scores and the curating of performance art. April 8: Northwestern graduate students Didier Morelli, Ira Murfin and Elliot Mercer will perform canonical works by Geoff Hendricks, John Cage and Yvonne Rainer. April 9: Presentations will be made by artist-choreographer Brendan Fernandes, curator Travis Chamberlain (The New Museum) and curator Jenny Schlenzka (MoMA PS1). This program is co-sponsored by Northwestern’s departments of art history, art theory and practice, and performance studies; the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities; the School of Communication’s dance program and Mellon Dance Studies. 

JUNE 2016

  • SAVE THE DATE: (time to be announced) Saturday, June 4: ARTS CIRCLE LAUNCH AND FEAST OF ASTONISHMENTS LIVE. Featuring a performance by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, the inflating of late German artist Otto Piene’s sculpture “Grand Rapids Carousel,” a cello “happening” orchestrated by cellists from the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music and Chicagoland; and participatory Fluxus performances. This program is presented in partnership with the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University.


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. Hours and locations available online. 

  • Ali Aschman, “Unnatural Growth,” through Feb. 10, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. The exhibit features Chicago-based and South African-born multidisciplinary artist Ali Aschman’s animations, sculptures and works on paper. The winter 2016 show reflects the artists’ struggle with the recurrent theme “in art and literature that oppressively tie women’s bodies to the natural world, but are nonetheless aesthetically seductive.” The exhibition -- and an artist workshop and talk led by exhibition artist Ali Aschman, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9 -- are free and open to the public. More information available online.
  • Marcellous Lovelace, “#Biko 70 Lumumba Blacker than Space” exhibition, Feb. 15 through March 20, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Chicago artist Marcellous Lovelace’s upcoming show walks outside the lines and tells the story of people who are overlooked inside a segregated, biased space overcome by poverty, crime, food deserts, worthless education and a police state of hatred. Lovelace’s “#LBS Series” is artwork of a revolutionary’s mentality on a painted surface that has no emotional attachment to the disregard from colonial oppression. His work is void of all conformist views and the self-sacrifice of searching for acceptance inside oppression. The exhibition and an opening reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 are free and open to the public. More information available online.
  • Victoria Martinez, "Wizard Can" exhibition, April 1 through April 30, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Victoria Martinez explores chance and intuition by presenting a combination of found patterns from the urban environment and soft household items that are transformed into fresh perspectives in the form of installation, painting, collage, sculpture and fiber art. Incorporating bed sheets, scarves, tablecloths, hand painted produce signs, found cassette tapes, old clothing from the artist’s apartment, scraps from her childhood home in the Pilsen neighborhood, thrift stores and local marketplaces in surrounding communities, Martinez attempts a reawakening visual experience asking: “How do nostalgic objects become a monument?” The exhibition and an opening reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 1 are free and open to the public.


Northwestern Univeristy’s Charles Deering Library is located at 1935 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. Library hours and locations are available online.      

  • Charlotte’s Scene: Archives of the Avant-Garde at Northwestern Libraries,” through July 17, Charles Deering Library, Lobby. Charlotte Moorman electrified the avant-garde scene in 1960s New York with her experimental approaches to music, performance and pure spectacle. While Moorman, whose archive lives in Northwestern’s Deering Library, is the subject of A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s-1980s,” Jan. 16 to July 17, 2016, a major installation at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. Deering Library’s “Charlotte’s Scene” exhibit explores the contemporary avant-garde scene before and during her most prolific output. Drawn from the archives of John Cage, Dick Higgins, Jim McWilliams and others (all held by Northwestern’s Music Library and Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections), these objects and images illuminate a time when artists rebelled against the rigidity of postwar culture by challenging -- perhaps even rewriting-- the definitions of art.
  • Making Connections: Unique Gifts to Northwestern’s Transportation Library, through April 15, Charles Deering Library, Third Floor. Libraries build their holdings deliberately and painstakingly to help researchers make connections between ideas -- but sometimes the “aha” moment is the result of serendipity, when a collection contributed by a donor yields an unexpected insight, clue or treasure no library could have acquired otherwise. Northwestern's Transportation Library is the happy recipient of many collections donated by industry executives, transportation experts, enthusiasts and historians. This exhibit offers a peek inside these collections, and explores the possibilities of the connections yet to be discovered at the intersection of benefactors and researchers.​ Among the exhibit’s highlights are handmade wooden buses from the William Luke Transportation Collection held by the Northwestern University Transportation Library.
  • African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean: Culture, Resistance, and Survival,” through March 28, Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Main Library, 5E. This exhibit about the African Diaspora in the Atlantic World illustrates aspects of the history, culture and religion of African descendants in the Americas and the Caribbean. Here the viewer can see a few of the diverse materials archived by the Herskovits collection related to this subject, such as monographs, academic journals, photography books, sound recordings, historical documents, biographies and many others.

Editor's Picks

Back to top