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Visual Arts at Northwestern in April

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 Library showcases Charlotte Moorman and its Shakespeare holdings
  • Dittmar hosting Victoria Martinez’s ‘Wizard Can’ exhibition throughout April

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art continues to 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 the 1980s. 

The Block also is hosting Don't Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman's Archive,” through July 17, 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.

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. 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 upcoming arts and humanities events also is available on the new Arts Circle website. Click here.


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.


  • Guided Exhibition Tours, 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Block Museum offers free, docent-led afternoon tours on weekends which focus on the bold and barrier-breaking performances of Charlotte Moorman and others who participated in the Avant-Garde festivals. No reservation necessary. More information online


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.

APRIL 2016

  • Live Art in the Eternal Network: Hannah Higgins, 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, Block Museum of Art. Hannah Higgins has been a professor of art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1994. Her research examines 20th-century avant-garde art with a specific interest in Dadaism, Surrealism, Fluxus, Happenings, and performance art, food art and early computer art. Her books and articles argue for the humanistic value of multimodal aesthetic experiences. This lecture is presented by the Northwestern University Libraries Board of Governors in celebration of the Block Museum exhibition, “A Feast of Astonishments.” Admission is free, but seating is limited. Please RSVP by calling 847-491-7641 or email:
  • The Other 51%: Native American Women Directors Presented by The First Nations Film and Video Festival, 6 p.m. reception, and 7 p.m. screening, Thursday, March 31, Block Museum of Art. In conjunction with the “Creating Nations: Past, Present and Future” symposium and One Book One Northwestern, Block Cinema will host an evening with Ernest M. Whiteman III, the director of First Nations Film and Video Festival, Inc. The First Nations Film and Video Festival Inc., advocates for the works of Native American films and videos that break racial stereotypes and promotes awareness of contemporary Native American issues and society. An invited speaker at the Creating Nations: Past, Present and Future symposium on Friday, April 1, Whiteman has curated this program of short films as a celebration of the important and underrepresented work of Native American female directors. The 7 p.m. screening will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception. 
  • Creating Nations: Past, Present and Future symposium, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday April 1, Block Museum of Art. Contemporary Native American art making is an act of conversation with the past, construction of the present and an envisioning of the future. The symposium will host interdisciplinary discussions focusing on Image, Sound, Text and Body in relation to historical trauma, sovereignty and nation building. Artists include Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo, poet, activist), Mark Turcott (Turtle Mountain Chippewa, poet), Thomas GreyEyes (Navajo, visual artist), Randy Reinholz (Choctaw, director/producer) and Jerod Tate (Chickasaw, composer). The symposium will be presented by the Colloquium on Indigeneity and Native American Studies in partnership with One Book One Northwestern, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Office of the Provost, Center for the Writing Arts, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, International Program Development, Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and the departments of theatre and African American studies. Admission is free and open to the public. 
  • 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 of Art, 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) as well as Francesca Pola, Danny Snelson and Mashinka Firunts. 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. 
  • Block Cinema Film Screening and Q&A with director Frederick Wiseman, 2:15 p.m. reception; 3 p.m. screening of “In Jackson Heights,” and 6 p.m. Q&A with Wiseman, the film’s director, Monday, April 18, Block Museum’s Pick-Laudati Auditorium. Prolific, profoundly influential and always compelling, the documentary films of Frederick Wiseman are some of America’s most valued reflections. Northwestern University’s School of Communication will welcome Wiseman as the 2016 Hoffman Professor. The Hoffman Professor is a short-term filmmaker residency funded by a generous gift from Jane Stainer Hoffman and Michael Hoffman. Wiseman will visit the Evanston campus to screen his 40th documentary, “In Jackson Heights,” an examination of the multiethnic neighborhood of Jackson Heights in Queens, N.Y.  The screening will be followed by a talkback moderated by Northwestern faculty member Debra Tolchinsky, associate professor of radio/television/film and director of the MFA in documentary media program. The event is free and open to the public. Click here to RSVP.
  • Discussion: Outing Queer Fluxus: Geoffrey Hendricks and David Getsy in Conversation, 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, Block Museum of Art. David Getsy, author and art historian, will interview Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks on his intermedia practice and his participation in Charlotte Moorman’s New York Avant-Garde festivals. Since the mid-1960s, Hendricks’ work has been driven by a fascination with nature, collaborative rituals and the exploration of expanded sexualities. A prominent member of the Fluxus movement and a legendary organizer of 1960s era Happenings, Hendricks’ art communicates a fascination with nature, collaborative rituals and the performance of gender and sexuality in public life. A frequent performer at Moorman’s annual New York Avant-Garde festivals, Hendricks’ work is currently on display in the Block’s exhibition, “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde 1960s-1980s,” including the classic “Ring Piece” (1971), documenting the end to his marriage and embrace of a queer identity. Together the two will explore the way in which Avant-Garde contemporaries such as Moorman, Carolee Schneemann and Hendricks himself, mounted public work that gave new voice and visibility to queer history and expanded sexualities. This free program is co-sponsored by SAIC Art History: department of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • A Feast of Astonishments: Emerging Scholars Symposium, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, April 29. Panel presentations will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Northwestern’s John Evans Alumni Center, 1800 Sheridan Road; and the 4 to 6 p.m. keynote lecture and reception at the Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Six Ph.D. candidates from programs across the country will present papers on Charlotte Moorman’s life and work, her various collaborations, and the larger impact of her creative vision on artistic practice from the 1960s to the present. The day’s discussions will culminate in a keynote lecture by Kristine Stiles, France Family Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, at Duke University. Stiles is an art historian of contemporary art and artists’ writings, a curator and artist specializing in global contemporary art.


A collaboration between the School of Communication and the Block Museum of Art, Block Cinema provides Northwestern, the North Shore and Chicago with a quality venue for repertory and festival cinema. Block Cinema is housed in the Block Museum’s Pick-Laudati Auditorium. Information on Block Cinema Spring 2016 screenings will soon be available online

Information follows on other Northwestern arts events taking place on the Evanston campus at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery, University Library and Herskovits Library. All are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.


For information on upcoming lectures and events sponsored by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences department of art theory and practice, visit


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.

  • 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 University’s Charles Deering Library is located at 1935 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. The Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies is located on the fifth level of the Main Library’s East Tower, 1970 N. Campus Drive. Library hours and locations are available online.

The Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University, established in 1954, is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music and religion to communications, management and cooking. The Africana collection is a resource for the entire University, and most of Northwestern's disciplinary programs are reflected in the collection. The Herskovits Library staff also serves regional, national and international scholars as well.

  • Page & Stage: Shakespeare at Northwestern Libraries, April 23 through Sept. 2, University Library. Four centuries after the passing of the world’s most famous author, it’s tempting to put the man on a pedestal -- sometimes quite literally. But William Shakespeare didn’t write from a lofty tower; his relatable themes, colorful characters, sharp satire and bawdy jokes have always marked him a man of the people. Which is why connecting with Shakespeare today shouldn’t be difficult or uncommon. Join Northwestern Libraries as we revel in our many holdings -- from rare books to theatre archives to our general collection -- that give students and faculty different ways to discover, learn from and re-tell Shakespeare’s tales. 
  • “Textural Cultures in Islamic Africa,” through June 18, Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Main Library fifth floor, east tower. This exhibit of imagery from Arabic manuscripts in the Herskovits collection accompanies “Sacred Word: The Changing Meanings in Textual Cultures of Islamic Africa,” a symposium dedicated to the memory of Professor John O. Hunwick (1936-2015). The symposium will be held April 21-22 and is sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA) and the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, and the Center for African Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Information on the April symposium is available online. 
  • “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.

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