CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.-The Art Institute of Chicago presents Focus: Michael Asher, on view through January 1, 2006. The work of Michael Asher deals with issues concerning the contextual—and thus architectural and institutional—condition of art. Asher is internationally recognized for his key role in fostering new approaches to making art. In the late 1960s, he participated in ushering in now-accepted notions of site specificity and has been highly influential for younger artists both here and abroad. In many different ways during his nearly four-decade career, Asher has consistently brought to the fore normally unseen conditions of museum or gallery display.
Asher participated in the 73rd and 74th American Exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, which took place in 1979 and 1982, respectively. For the 73rd American Exhibition, Asher relocated the bronze sculpture of Jean Antoine Houdon's George Washington (1788)—which had stood outside the main entrance of the Art Institute since 1925—to a museum gallery. The sculpture was taken off its base and installed in the center of Gallery 219, then a period room dedicated to European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts of the 18th century, the historical context appropriate to George Washington. Thus displaced from the front entrance of the museum, where it had existed as a commemorative and decorative object, the sculpture's meaning was redefined vis-à-vis the nature of its new context. Simultaneously, Asher's addition of the patinated, weathered bronze dramatically altered the appearance of Gallery 219. Standing within the gallery, George Washington served as a reminder of the selection, categorization, and contemporary repositioning that effect the perception of an art object in relation to its surroundings.
For his Focus exhibition, Asher will once again work with the bronze sculpture of George Washington by Houdon, which currently stands outside Mayor Daley's office at City Hall. This new work will extend the implications of the work he conceived in 1979 for the 73rd American Exhibition with respect to the temporal, spatial, historical, and institutional factors that determine the meaning of sculpture.
Organizer: Focus: Michael Asher is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. Curator: James Rondeau, Frances and Thomas Ditmer Curator of Contemporary Art, Department of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago.