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Collection Reflections - Our Picks

Members of The Block's staff, students, and community offer selections from the museum's collection that resonate with them

January 18, 2020

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week, Rikki Byrd, Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow writes:

One of the works that I think about often is Milton Rogovin's "Girl With Earring." I imagine that it's a cold day (evidenced by the young girl’s coat) and the warmth of the sun on her face. There are similarities in Jackie Hetherington's "Mae" and Charles Swedlund's "South Side"––the Black girls and women angling their faces completely or slightly away from the artists capturing them, an earring dangling from their ear. I've started to meditate on these works using the phrase "beauty is a gesture."

By way of words that are certainly better than mine, I quote Saidiya V. Hartman's thoughts on beauty in "Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments”: "... the beauty of the black ordinary, the beauty that resides in and animates the determination to live free, the beauty that propels the experiments in living otherwise.”

  1. Jackie Hetherington (American, 1935 - 1989), Mae, c. 1985. Woodcut. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Ann Zelle. 2018.2.1
  2. Charles Swedlund (American, born 1935), South Side, ca. 1958. Gelatin silver print. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Steve Nordman 2018.12.7
  3. Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011), Girl with Earring from the series East Side, Buffalo, New York, 1961/1962 Silver gelatin print. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, The Richard Florsheim Art Fund Purchase, 2000.25.16 Image reproduced courtesy of The Rogovin Collection, Forest Park, Illinois
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November 25, 2020

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week, Bailey Pekar, Curatorial Intern writes:

"As the pandemic wears on, my reaction to seeing groups of people together has soured. When I see images of crowds, I can't think about anything other than, "Where are their masks? Why aren't they being responsible!" Looking at these crowds, both imagined and historical, I wonder how long it will take for this discomfort around close, physical contact to go away."

  1. Unidentified artist, German, Before the Throne of King John of Leyden, ca. 1910-1920, woodcut, plate: 8 3/4 in x 6 in; sheet: 14 3/4 in x 11 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, The Norman H. and Marie Louise Pritchard Collection, 1985.2.140
  2. Honoré Daumier, Allons messieurs .... allons donc... disputez-vous c'est bien, mais ne vous battez pas...., 1844, lithograph, sheet: 14 3/8 in x 9 3/4 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, The Norman H. and Marie Louise Pritchard Collection, 1985.2.223
  3. Edward Steichen, 1907, Steeplechase Day, Paris; After the Races, 1907, printed 1960s, gelatin silver print, 11 in x 14 inches, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of the Hollander Family in honor of Alissa Schapiro, 2016.15.7
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November 18, 2020 - Heartbeats, Footsteps, Wishes

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week, Kate Hadley Toftness, Special Projects Associate, writes:

"This week I chose to reflect on artworks that capture ephemeral parts of life: heartbeats, footsteps, wishes. These artists perform a kind of magic, creating evidence of fleeting human emotion and presence. They use materials that fix their subjects just firmly enough to reveal their limited ability to fix them at all. Dario Robleto returns a sense of mystery to the heartbeat. His portfolio of photolithographs recreates the earliest recordings of the human heartbeat on hand-flamed and sooted paper. His prints connect us to other bodies that once lived and breathed, and they draw us into a renewed awareness of our own deep selves: our hearts have been beating continuously since before our birth. Lorna Simpson invites us to consider the different qualities of a wish. With “wishbones” made from ceramic, bronze, or rubber, the work suggests that not all dreams have the same fighting chance. Felix Gonzalez-Torres memorializes a pattern of footsteps in the sand—yet, per the artist’s wishes, once exhibited, the image will be destroyed. The work acknowledges that art may serve to keep our loved ones close, in meaningful but incomplete ways. These works contain life, death, sadness, hope, and the potential energy of our own interpretations."

  1.  Lorna Simpson, III (Three Wishbones in a Wood Box), 1994, Wood, felt, ceramic, bronze, and rubber, Gift of John Silberman, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences 1973, 2016.7.3
  2. Dario Robleto, Before and during emotion, 1870, from the portfolio The First Time, The Heart (A Portrait of Life 1854 - 1913), 2017, Photolithograph on paperboard, Gift of Northwestern Engineering, 2018.6.2
  3. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (For Parkett), 1994, Screenprinted billboard, Gift of Peter Norton, 2016.4.14 (image courtesy @parkettart)
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November 4, 2020 - Modes of Escape and Engagement

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week, Elisa Quinlan, Director of Development, writes:

"Election week is finally here. By the time you read this post we’ll either have a definitive result, a hanging chad situation, and/or a national movement underway. In the midst of these times, I find myself juggling between competing and contradicting modes of escape and engagement. A young girl in the 1940’s contemplates an upcoming trip. A film still photograph takes us inside a Hitchcock-like universe infused with danger and intrigue. And a colorful political silkscreen roots us back into the reality of our current moment. Contemplating and experiencing art is the perfect antidote to the national anxiety and uncertainty we are all experiencing right now."

  1. Esther Bubley, Schoolgirl waiting to get on a bus at small town in Tennessee, from the series Bus trip from Knoxville, Tennessee to Washington, D.C., 1943. Gelatin silver print 2 x 2 1/2 inches. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2000.31.1.
  2. Cindy Sherman, Film Still Series #14, 1978. Gelatin silver print, 10 × 8 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Lynn Hauser and Neil Ross, 2019.15.
  3. Robert Indiana, The Golden Future of America, 1976. Color screenprint 22 1/2 in x 17 1/2 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. LS 1985.3.6
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October 28, 2020 - Dizzying Menace and Epic Spectacle

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Dan Silverstein, Associate Director of Collections and Exhibition Management, writes:

"As the election approaches, I am reminded of our great, recent acquisition of The Great Farce by Federico Solmi, which resonates with me as we look to collectively decide who will be our leader for the next 4 years.

Though I have yet to see a gallery-sized installation of this video-based artwork (it will take up the whole upstairs gallery when installed at The Block), The Great Farce feels like a grand vision by the artist - combining recognizable places with some only imagined. Solmi populates this unnerving landscape with historical figures, as well as others that seem to suggest a strong relationship to contemporary political figures of today. In doing so, he has created an overall effect of both dizzying menace and epic spectacle. The unrelenting, immersive video takes our breath away...we feel that we may be witnessing key moments of the misuse and abuse of power at critical junctures in our very real histories."

  1. Federico Somi, The Great Farce [stills and installation view at Schauspiel Frankfurt, Germany], 2017, nine-channel video installation, color, sounds, 8:11 minutes.
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October 21, 2020 - Dynamic of Family Life

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Jenna Robertson, Assistant to the Director, writes:

"During this unusual time, I’ve found myself drawn to art that reflects and projects my own personal dilemmas nestled in the larger issues we face. The new dynamic of family life and this growing remote world. These particular works speak to my vulnerabilities while bringing a certain level of comfort needed during this dynamic period.

  1.  Rachel Monosov and Admire Kamudzengerere, First Home, Aug.21, 1972, 2017, Inkjet prints in artists’ frame, cardstock, and pins 12in x 9in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchase funds provided by Northern Trust, Hugh and Nancy Magill and the Andra S. and Irwin Press Collections Fund. 2017.7a
  2. David Levinthal, Untitled, from the series Barbie, 1998, Dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid) 24in x 20in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Gift of anonymous donor, 2017.6.2
  3. Albrecht Altdorfer, Virgin with the Child and Two Boys, 1507, Engraving 2 3/4in x 1 7/8in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, The Norman H. and Marie Louise Pritchard Collection, 1985.2.120
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October 14, 2020 - Moments of Absorption

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week América Salomón, Engagement Coordinator, writes:

"As an artist and an audience member, I’ve always found myself drawn to the experiential, immersive potential of art—the ability for a work of art to take you in sensorily and create a space for wonder and contemplation. Now, more than ever, I’ve valued the moments of absorption that artworks can create, whether for rest from or sustained deliberation of the anxieties and realities that we face day to day. These three works transfix and affect in such a manner for me, engaging the senses through detail, texture, and movement."

  1. Neal Rock, Golden Surfing, 2003. Silicone rubber with artificial flowers, overall: 23 in x 20 in x 9 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Peter Norton. 2016.4.39.
  2. Ken Fandell, The Sky Above My Home (10/7/2002–6/14/2003, Chicago, Illinois), 2003. Inkjet print on paper, overall: 58 1/4 in x 105 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Peter Norton. 2016.4.9.
  3. Sarah Sze, Day, 2003. Offset color lithograph and screenprint (diptych), sheet: 37 1/4 in x 71 1/4 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchase funds provided by guests at the April 21, 2012 benefit. 2012.3b.
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October 7, 2020 - Motion in a Still Frame

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Melanie Garcia Sympson, Curatorial Associate, writes:

"In the past seven months, I have spent a lot of time in front of screens with moving images: gifs with pictures on a loop, movies with special effects, and flashing email notifications. These three black-and-white artworks with unrelated subject matter – a swinging pendulum, charging horses, and flying saucers – have stuck with me for their dizzying representation of motion in a still frame."

  1. Berenice Abbott, The Science Pictures: Pendulum Swing, 1959/60, printed 1982. Gelatin silver print, 15 × 19 1/2 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, donated by Husch Blackwell, LLP, 2019.8.7.
  2. Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498, published 1511. Woodcut on paper, 5 7/8 in x 11 1/8 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Pamela and James Elesh, 2010.16.
  3. Alexander Calder, Flying Saucers (Soucoupes Volantes), 1969. Lithograph, 30 × 22 3/4 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, transfer from the University Archives, 2018.3.1.
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September 29, 2020 - Charting a Path

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Lindsay Bosch, Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications, writes:

"I’ve been looking at a lot of charts lately. We all have. Disease, elections, fires, demographics: I study the trends, the curves, the spikes, the trajectory…trying to project the future… or even understand the present with a bit more clarity. I’m rarely satisfied. Maybe it’s for this reason that I’m drawn to artists that turn the aesthetics of data toward new aims. With maps, charts, and graphs these three works take on elements of the ubiquitous visualizations that fill our news feeds. In place of clarity, they bring beauty, complexity, and even irony. The works each introduce a human perspective into the appearance of data. In doing so they also suggest the impossibility for any such visualizations to give us the objective truth about our world."

  1. Casey Reas, Process 6 (Image 3), 2005, Inkjet print on paper 27 3/4 in x 27 3/4 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2007.22.4.
  2. Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Approximations, 2019, Inkjet print on paper 24 × 20 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchase funds provided by the Julie and Lawrence Bernstein Family Art Acquisition Fund, 2019.18.1
  3. Robert Morris, Observatory, from the portfolio CONSPIRACY: The artist as witness, 1971, Lithograph 18 in x 24 in., Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Evelyn Salk in memory of her husband, Erwin A. Salk2001.20h
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September 23, 2020 - The Block Goes West

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas, Media and Communications Coordinator, writes:

"Land and its resources have captivated the imagination of artists throughout time. However, pictorial depictions of physical spaces are invariably embedded with meanings beyond mere scenery. The mythologized narrative of “the West” continues to normalize stories of conquest, occupation, and exploitation to this day. Juxtaposing two works produced through the public programs of the Great Depression with 1980’s photography, these selections from the Block’s Collection explore the expansionist ideology that has permeated U.S. popular imaginary since the nineteenth century. The ask how we might confront national legends of the land, its ownership, and its uses."

  1. David Levinthal, Untitled from the series Wild West, 1988, Dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid), 24 in x 20 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of anonymous donor, 2017.6.16
  2. Henry Simon, Landing of the Spanish in America, 1941-1942, Egg tempera on panel, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Norbert Simon and David Simon, 997.28.156
  3. Arthur Rothstein, Harvesting Spinach Crop, Community Garden FSA Camp (from "Robstown, TX" series), January, 1942, Gelatin silver print, 4 in x 5 1/8 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 1999.11.23
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September 16, 2020 - "Materiality and the process of creation"

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Erin Northington, Associate Director, Campus and Community Education and Engagement, writes:

"During this moment of increased screen-time and deeper online engagement with original works of art, I have found myself thinking often about an object’s physical characteristics – its medium, scale, weight, surface, and texture -- and imagine how it was made in the studio. I wonder, what happened first? Why did an artist choose one material over another? Did they have a choice and, if so, what alternatives were there? If not, why? How does an object’s materiality and process of creation communicate an artist’s ideas about their subject, audience, and the questions their work seeks to address?"
  1. Shan Goshorn, Cherokee Burden Basket: A Song for Balance, 2012. Arches watercolor paper, archival inks, and acrylic paint 24 in. x 19 in. (diameter)., Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchased with a gift from Sandra Lynn Riggs and members of the Block Leadership Circle., 2017.3.
  2. Deborah Roberts, She’s Mighty Mighty, 2017. Collage, 30 × 22 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchased with funds donated by Diane and Craig Solomon, 2017.11
  3.  Sam Gilliam, One, 1970. Acrylic on unstretched canvas, 116 1/4 × 67 1/4 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of the Collection of Walter A. Netsch and Dawn Clark Netsch., 2016.5
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June 25, 2020 - "The horizon meets the sky"

Each week a member of The Block's team offers selections that resonate with them at this moment. ⁣This week Corinne Granof, Academic Curator, writes: 

"Whether it is a small patch of grass, an improbable spring flower, or a tree in the forest, encountering nature is restorative, good for the spirit. Opportunities to see nature have been a respite for many of us lately. For those of us who are fortunate to be at the Block Museum and Northwestern University, the view of Lake Michigan is often part of our daily experience. The water meets the rocks, the horizon meets the sky, the sound of water calms jittery nerves. Images of bodies of water in the Block collection recall the sublime view along the shores of Lake Michigan. They bring moments of contemplation, meditation, and tranquility."

  1. 1. Henry Simon (American, born Poland, 1901 - 1995) Untitled (Indiana Dunes), ca. 1965. Photograph 7 1/2 in x 9 1/2 in. Gift of Norbert Simon and David Simon, 1997.28.259
  2.  Katherine Bowling (American, born 1955), Sea #1, 2002. Color aquatint, spit-bite aquatint, and white ground aquatint 23 1/4 in x 23 7/8 in. The Collection of Riverhouse Editions: Gift of Jan and William van Straaten, 2002.4.1
  3. Brad Temkin (American, born 1956) Jetty, from the series Relics, 2005. Inkjet print photograph 20 in x 26 1/4 in. Gift of the artist in honor of Mia, 2006.5.26
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June 17, 2020 - "The complexity and intersections of Black experiences"

Today, Simran Bhalla, Block Museum of Art Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow 2019–2020 writes:

"This week I have selected three influential Black independent films that have screened over the last few years at Block Cinema. I want to highlight the playfulness, romance, and style in these stories, which depict the complexity and intersections of Black experiences in America and the United Kingdom. The films focus on the interiority of lively and idiosyncratic characters and are animated by the details of everyday life."

1. Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982. Available to watch for free on the Criterion Channel.)
2. Young Soul Rebels (Isaac Julien, 1991. Available to watch in the U.K. on BFI Player and iTunes.)
3. Chameleon Street (Wendell B. Harris, 1989. Available to buy on Amazon Prime.

 

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JUNE 3, 2020 - Whose Streets?

 ⁣Today, Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, writes:

“The images of police violence that have circulated over the last week are shocking but not surprising; in fact, they are painfully familiar, especially to communities whose calls for change in the face of such ongoing violence have not been heeded.  

The Block strives to create a safe and welcoming space where audiences can come together to confront and discuss these traumatic images through exhibitions and events. Rather than offering three picks, today I’d like to draw attention to one event which took place in November 2019, when Northwestern graduate student Emeka Ekwelum organized a screening of the 2017 documentary WHOSE STREETS?, with filmmaker and activist Sabaah Folayan in attendance. This searing documentary depicts the uprising in Ferguson, MO that followed from the murder of Michael Brown; its scenes of a violent, militarized police response to the community’s calls for accountability are tragically being replayed throughout the country today. 

Also present were Damon Williams and Kristiana Rae Colón, two Chicago organizers who co-founded the #Letusbreathe collective, an alliance of artists and activists organizing through a creative lens to imagine a world without prisons and police. The conversation between Damon, Kristiana, Sabaah, and Emeka was one of the most thoughtful and inspiring that I’ve experienced in my time at the Block; we’ve made this conversation available for listening on the Block’s Soundcloud page. 

On Sunday, May 31, 2020 Damon Williams was assaulted by police and arrested during a protest in Hyde Park. He and several other activists were detained for several hours and were eventually released in the face of intense public pressure. Damon is one of many peaceful demonstrators who have been taken into custody at a time when jails and detention facilities present severe risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

Our support goes out to Damon, his family and friends, and his fellow organizers. You can hear more of Damon’s insights by listening to his podcast, Airgo, at www.airgoradio.com, or follow them at twitter.com/airgoradio. More information about the #Letusbreathe collective can be found at https://www.letusbreathecollective.com/ 

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MAY 27, 2020 - "Across distances, great and small"

Today, Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, writes:

"Our current reliance on video conferencing technology to connect with people has led me to reflect upon artworks and programs at The Block where people traversed distances, great and small, to come together to create meaningful experiences. 

In 2016 the Block brought the Trisha Brown Dance Company to perform Roof Piece, using the roof of the museum and its neighboring buildings on Northwestern’s Arts Circle as their stage. This footage employs a bird’s eye view to underscore the poetic call and response between the seemingly isolated dancers. 

Sewing circles hosted by the artist Marie Watt in 2017 were forums for connection, bringing together people from across Evanston and Chicago to contribute to the production of a new work of art. These two short videos commemorate this process. 

In 2019 archaeologists from Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom shared their research in a public program. Their individual presentations combined to tell a fuller story of the material culture of Medieval Africa, which undergirded the Block exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time."

1. Trisha Brown Dance Company performing Roof Piece, at Northwestern University’s Arts Circle.
Organized by the Block Museum of Art. June 2016.

2.  Sewing circles with Marie Watt February 2017 and Interview with Marie Watt on Companion Species: Ferocious Mother and Canis Familiaris. April 2017.

3. From the Field: International Archaeologists in Conversation, April 24, 2019

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MAY 20, 2020 - "The communal experience of movie-watching"

Today, Malia Haines-Stewart, Associate Film Programmer, writes:

"During this time, when watching films in a shared physical space is no longer available to us, I have been reflecting on the communal experience of movie-watching and, of course, missing the Block’s 150-seat auditorium and the people who animate it with their presence. Here is a selection of my top three screenings that I attended as an audience member before joining the Block Cinema programming team.  The films affirm my understanding of cinema’s role as a collaborative, social, and conversation-based art form that thrives on and celebrates togetherness."

1. La Politique des Autres: Short Films by Agnès Varda (July 2019) - Explore work by Agnes Varda
2. Barbara Hammer: Declarations of Identity (May 2019) - Explore work by Barbara Hammer 
3. Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Dreams of Suitcases and Blue Lobster (Oct. 2019) - Explore the Ism, Ism, Ism series

 

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May 13, 2020 - "No reference to time, to space, to illness or fear"

 Today Corinne Granof, Academic Curator, writes:

"In these difficult times, many of us are seeking respite and distraction, sometimes we are seeking escape. I am drawn to the pure color, line, and form of non-representational works in our collection. There is no reference to time, to space, to illness or fear. The works are transportive and, for a moment, take us out of the moment, offering a two-dimensional surface for joy and beauty."

  1. Stanley William Hayter (English, 1901 - 1988), Maternité Ailée, 1948, Color engraving, soft-ground etching and stencil relief-roll, 13 9/16 in x 7 15/16 in, 1999.18

    2. Herbert Bayer (American, born Austria, 1900 - 1985), Untitled, from the series Seven Convolutions, 1948, Color lithograph, 17 7/8 in x 22 1/8 in, 1985.42.7.

    3. Myron Kozman (American, 1916 - 2002), Abstraction #203, 1940, Color screenprint, 25 1/8 in x 17 11/16 in, 1996.88

 

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May 6, 2020 - Conversations on Global Connection

 Today Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs writes:

"Separated physically from my neighbors, family, colleagues, and friends, I wonder at my simultaneous connections with people near and far via digital platforms. My sense of time and of space have contracted and expanded in the same moment. What does it mean to be together at this time? As families and households, communities, countries, and our world navigate a global health crisis, I am drawn to the work of artists and curators who help me to see the synergies between the local and the global in new ways and who invite me to consider our connections across time and place. Here are three of my favorites from The Block Archive"

1. Visual Vanguard: Bisi Silva (April 6, 2017)

2. Kader Attia: Opening Day Program (January 21, 2017)

3. Artist Talk: Counter-Histories with Michael Rakowitz (February 13, 2019)

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April 29, 2020 - Collection images of solitary contentment

Today Alisa Swindell, Curatorial Research Assistant writes:

"I have been thinking of how often women are shown in relation to others, as lovers, mothers, caretakers. In this time of isolation, I have also been considering what it means to be alone. With both trains of thought in mind, I have selected images from the collection of women by themselves who seem content being solitary."

1. Henri Matisse, Repose on the Banquette, 1929, Lithograph, 19 3/4 in x 26 1/16 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of James and Anne DeNaut, 2008.31.2.

2. Charles Swedlund, South Side, c.1958, Gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Steve Nordman. 2018.12.7

3. Will Barnet, Between Life and Life, 1998. Color lithograph, 28 x 29 3/4 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Anonymous gift in memory of Lorraine Agnes Stewart, 2000.8.

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April 22, 2020 - Photographic views of essential work and life-sustaining labor

Today Corinne Granof, Academic Curator writes:

Photographs in The Block’s collection, some by the great photographers of the Farm Security Administration from the 1930s and 1940s, capture the conditions and hard physical labor of farm workers. While their work is often invisible, the photographs serve to remind us of farm workers’ critical, but often unnoticed, contributions. In our current moment, farm workers are essential workers, and undocumented immigrants have been recognized as “critical to the food supply chain.” In photographs we see their deep connection to the land and the bounty of the earth. These photographs, among many in the Block collection, speak to the daily life of the farm workers and the gifts of their life-sustaining labor." 

1. W. Eugene Smith, "Spanish Village" Series ,1950, Gelatin silver print, 13 7/8 in x 11 in., Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Gift of Richard L. Sandor in honor of Julie and Penny Sandor, 1986.1.65

2. Torkel Korling. H.J. Heinz, Tomato Workers, Farm County South of Chicago, 1942, printed 1991, Gelatin silver print, 13 7/8 in x 11 in; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift in part by Steve Nordman, 2001.22c

3. John Collier, One of the enormous fields at which many migratory laborers are employed. Seabrook Farm. Bridgeton, New Jersey, June, 1942 Gelatin silver print, 3 15/16 in x 5 1/8 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 1999.11.9

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April 17, 2020 - “Working from Home”: Prints of Work, Solitude, and Household Space

Today Curatorial Graduate Fellow Caitlin DiMartino selects three collection prints on work, solitude, and household space. "Whether to emphasize an aesthetic, contemplative aspect of individual labor, to experiment with the effects of light on an interior space, or to enhance the solitary presence of the sitter, printmakers across time have utilized the compositional and symbolic resonance of domestic settings in their work. While Northwestern’s campus remains closed and with many of us spending more time indoors or working from home, these prints, depicting interior scenes of toil and contemplation, could perhaps be considered from a new perspective in light of these recent circumstances." 

  1. Peter Ilsted (Danish, 1861 – 1933), Sunshine, 1909, Color mezzotint inked à la poupée, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of James and Pamel Elesh, 2004.10

    2. Ellen Lanyon (American, 1926 – 2013), Orchard Street, 1955, Etching with gold leaf, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 1994.61

    3. W. Greatbach (English, 1802 – ca. 1885) after Gerard Dow (Dutch, 1613 – 1675), The Winder, 1846, Engraving, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Gift of the Carnegie Corporation, 1985.10.21
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April 10, 2020 - Three collection photographs of a vibrant, social Chicago

Today Melanie Garcia Sympson, Block Curatorial Associate writes: "As the city quiets down and we socialize through our screens, I find myself drawn to works in the collection representing Chicago's crowds and bustling streets: commuters downtown with places to be, kids at the playground, and a stylish couple dancing joyfully." 

1. Roland L. Freeman, Dancing at Jazz Alley, Chicago, Illinois, 1974, Gelatin silver print. 14 in x 11 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, The Richard Florsheim Art Fund Purchase, 2000.25.7

2. Henry Simon, Untitled (State and Monroe Streets) [silhouetted figures], ca. 1965, Monochrome photographic print, 7 in x 6 3/4 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Norbert Simon and David Simon, 1997.28.95

3.Charles Swedlund, South Side Chicago, c. 1958, Gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 in × 7 1/2 in, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Steve Nordman, 2018.12.4

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