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New takes on modern design, William Wegman's art are highlights at Krannert Art Museum
“In the Bauhaus,” by William Wegman. 1999 Color Polaroid. Photo courtesy © William Wegman.


CHAMPAIGN, ILL.- Modernism has ignited a new passion among designers and collectors, who value the movement’s objects as historical icons. It also has inspired artists who are using modernist design objects in their own work to comment on the movement’s cultural significance. That artwork forms the exhibition “MetaModern,” opening at Krannert Art Museum on Jan. 29. It is one of five temporary exhibitions at the museum. The opening night reception is 6 p.m. Jan. 29, with comments by “MetaModern” co-curators Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox.

“As early as 2003, we were seeing work that started to focus on this idea of reinterpreting or modifying modernism by artists that were too young to grow up with it,” Duggan said. “It’s been just long enough, approximately 90 years since Bauhaus came about, to have some historical perspective.”

Duggan said the current artists interpreting modernism are manipulating the objects themselves – modifying or transforming or even destroying them in ways that comment on modernism.

For example, Conrad Bakker, a painter, sculptor and University of Illinois art professor, has a series of paintings in the exhibition called “Untitled Project: eBay (Ding).” They are based on modernist objects for sale on eBay and the photographs documenting damage to those objects.

“Instead of looking at a Mies van der Rohe chair for its beauty, he’s looking at a closeup of a crack in its leather,” Duggan said. “A lot of modernism is about machined surfaces and perfection. He’s shining a light on human presence and what we do to these objects.”

The exhibition includes “My Decoy” by Brian Jungen, in which he transformed a Verner Panton cone chair into a Native American drum; a video projection by Josiah McElheny based on the J. and L. Lobmeyr chandeliers from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House; and William Cordova’s “Endless Column,” which reproduces Constantin Brancusi’s 1918 “Endless Column,” reconstructing it from lampshades.

Krannert Art Museum is the first of six locations around the country that will present the “MetaModern” exhibition.

Also opening Jan. 29 is an exhibition of work by artist William Wegman that will include a number of his photographs of Weimaraners, for which he is best-known.

The exhibition, titled “Artists Including Me: William Wegman,” will include photographs, drawings and paintings. It will feature some of his paintings from the last 10 years, in which he used postcards to create narratives about what might be happening beyond the frame. It also will include work that relates to other well-known artists or artwork, often in a humorous way.

“There are some great paintings that reference the expressionist Wassily Kandinsky and others that playfully relate to Edward Hopper,” said Kathryn Koca Polite, co-curator of the exhibition with museum director Kathleen Harleman.

“I’m not really making fun of great art, but I’m playing with it, I suppose,” Wegman said. “That’s something that I would have avoided in 1970 and the late 1960s – I didn’t want any art references. I thought that was cheap to make fun of or to appropriate other art, and I didn’t really care for that. I’m just sort of admiring it and using it now, and spending as much time thinking about it and being around it – it’s kind of natural to me.”

Wegman, who earned his master of fine arts degree from the U. of I. School of Art and Design, will be at Krannert Art Museum for an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. March 5.

Both the Wegman exhibition and another new exhibition, “Versions and Revisions,” include pieces that relate to recognizable artists or styles, in the same way the artists in the “MetaModern” exhibition “are riffing directly from these iconic modern designs,” Koca Polite said. She curated the “Versions and Revisions” exhibition, which opens with the others on Jan. 29. The exhibition features works from the 1960s through the early 2000s that are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“Speculative Visions of Pragmatic Architecture” is curated by U. of I. architecture professor Jeffery Poss and features the work of four U. of I. faculty members in the School of Architecture’s Detail and Fabrication program. Their work focuses on the process of making and the evolution of ideas manifested in physical form.

A second portion of the “Speculative Visons” exhibition highlights the design and preservation work of architecture professor Erik Hemingway. “Erik Hemingway Modernism” documents Hemingway’s preservation work on mid-century homes in Illinois and California.

Continuing at the museum through May 17 is a significant exhibition of Japanese prints, curated by U. of I. art history professor Anne Burkus-Chasson. “With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Postwar Years” examines the deep history of this diverse art form and the ways in which these prints helped shape perceptions of Japanese culture outside of Japan.





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