Addison to Present New Exhibits Influenced by the Past
January 22, 2007
—The Addison Gallery of American Art will begin its winter season with a pair of exhibits inspired by history. On display January 26 through April 15, Kara Walker’s Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) challenges the portrayals of African Americans during the antebellum period and provides insights into their involvement in the war. Opening one day later and running through March 18, Models as Muse features contemporary artwork based on the Addison’s ship model collection, which documents four centuries of American history.
Kara Walker is best known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality through her iconic, silhouetted figures. In Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), which includes 15 large-scale lithographic silkscreen prints, the artist—for the first time—unites her signature black cutouts with the historical documentation that influenced the development of her aesthetics. Walker appropriated and enlarged select illustrations from a two-volume publication; published in 1866 and 1868, it too was titled Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated). Walker then overlaid the illustrations with large black stencils. She transforms the 19th century narratives of battle, death, and retreat and recasts—and at times even reclaims—the positions of African Americans in U.S. history while crafting a thought-provoking dialogue between past and present.
In Models as Muse, the Addison’s ship model collection serves as both the exhibit’s central focus and as the inspiration for unique projects in a variety of media—from video to sculptural installations to wall drawings. The ship model collection was commissioned as part of the museum’s original 1930 collection and represents a broader understanding of art as the expression of skill as well as talent, and of beauty in the fashioning of functional objects. These models inspired artist Roderick Buchanan to think about maritime history in his native Scotland, resulting in Shrinking the Clyde, a video installation that captures the scaling down inherent to the model-making process and the now shrunken shipbuilding industry. In Dredge, sculptor David Opdyke chose to focus on the idea of the international shipping trade and consumer/commercial glut, while Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s multimedia installation, titled Below Deck, creates an imaginary, fantastical view of what might occur below a ship’s surface. Comprised of bright blue adhesive tape, Christine Hiebert’s site-specific wall drawing evokes the architecture of ships, as well as their movement through space.
“This exhibition does what the Addison has always done best—linking the great art of the past with the art of the present,” explains Addison Director Brian Allen.
The Addison Gallery of American Art, located on the campus of Phillips Academy, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1–5 p.m. Admission to all exhibitions and events is free.