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Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery to open "Selections from Michael Aurbach's Secrecy Series"
Michael Aurbach, Trial and Error, 2008. Mixed media, 8' x 9' x 16'. Courtesy the artist.

NASHVILLE, TENN.- Presented in honor of Michael Aurbach, who will retire in 2016 after thirty years of teaching sculpture and drawing in Vanderbilt’s Department of Art, The Last Laugh: Selections from Michael Aurbach's Secrecy Series, will open at the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery on January 14, 2016 and continue through March 3, 2016.

Michael Aurbach’s career as an artist and educator is rooted in close observation of human behavior. This can be traced to his studies in biology and journalism, the former providing him with an insight into the “lives” of organisms, with the later relying on the gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information. The study of art history, followed by undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, gave Aurbach the credentials that led to a career in teaching spanning some thirty-three years, and also the theoretical and ideological mindset to be one of the more successful satirical voices in art today.

Throughout his career, Aurbach has developed an inquisitive, conceptuallydriven approach to art making. The Last Laugh: Selections from Michael Aurbach's Secrecy Series features three large-scale sculptures, all characterized by the artist’s increasingly skeptical view of those in positions of power. These sculptures, with their well-crafted, pristine, almost machine-like aesthetic, harness their very materiality to convey the nature of power itself—one that is cold, calculating, and unforgiving. Their theatrical quality suggests a kind of stage, since, as Aurbach comments, “the institutional world that I know seems unnatural. One might think of institutions as artificial constructs inhabited by many bad actors.”

With humor as a mainstay of his practice, not surprisingly, Aurbach is a popular professor, as his approach to the classroom and his students is heavily laced with humor and a critical attitude. For this, and much more, The Last Laugh, in the form of this exhibition, is one we will continue to reflect on with a wry smile, and chances are, with more than just one laugh.

Works featured in the exhibition include:

• Cassandra, 2016, a work on whistleblowers and reactions to them

• Administrative Spectacle, 2013, which describes “the insatiable need that many administrators have to outdo their peers”

• Administrative Trial and Error, 2008, a “portrait of an administrator who seeks total control over his colleagues”

Aurbach has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards from institutions including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, and Art Matters, Inc. He has exhibited widely, with more than eighty solo shows at locations such as The Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, New York, the Indianapolis Art Center, and the Artemisia Gallery, Chicago. In 2001, his sculpture was included in the inaugural contemporary art exhibition at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2015, Aurbach was awarded the Southeastern College Art Conference’s President’s Award for Exemplary Achievement, their highest honor in recognition of significant personal and artistic development as well as long-standing service.

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