MSU Broad Art Museum prioritizes inclusion and equity in 2021 acquisitions

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MSU Broad Art Museum prioritizes inclusion and equity in 2021 acquisitions
Cristina Kahlo, Pulsus, 2021.

EAST LANSING, MI.- The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University announced 11 new acquisitions to its permanent collection. Expanding on the museum’s mission to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities, all of the artworks acquired this year were by women artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color.

Among the acquisitions is work by Christina Kahlo, great-grandniece of artist Frida, Métis artist and MSU faculty member Dylan Miner, and two works by Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero, both of which were purchased through the generosity of MSU alumna Adrienne Johns and Jim Whitely.

“A healthy future for museums relies on embracing and preserving in perpetuity the richness of diverse cultures through our collections,” said Director Mónica Ramírez-Montagut. “We are particularly proud of our current roster of acquisitions focused on work by women and artists of color, which will move our institutional needle towards equity of representation, and thus shape our future to one where we are all adequately and respectfully represented.”

The majority of the works acquired by the MSU Broad Art Museum are from artists whose work is currently on view, such as Beatriz Cortez, Caroline Monnet, Jenny Kendler, and Matthew Angelo Harrison.

“The acquisition of these incredible works, all of which are drawn from current exhibitions or will be on view in 2022, will enable continued research and sustained dialogue with these 11 artists by the museum and across the MSU community,” said Georgia Erger, assistant curator and staff lead for the acquisitions committee. “These artists share a commitment to social, racial, and environmental justice; through their artistic and activist practices they amplify the voices and narratives that most urgently need to be heard within our communities.”

View the full list of 2021 acquisitions below:

Beatriz Cortez, One Hundred and Eight Point Hood Shield (2019)

Beatriz Cortez, a Salvadoran artist, created this sculpture in the form of a geodesic dome made of salvaged automobile hoods, doors, and trunks. The shape suggests a shelter designed to safeguard its inhabitants, a critique of how advancements in design and technology still generate considerable waste and pollution that predominantly impact communities of color. Cortez’s choice of materials speaks to the local history of the state of Michigan, and the major influence of the automobile industry in the region. This work is currently featured in the major exhibition InterStates of Mind: Rewriting the Map of the United States in the Age of the Automobile.

Matthew Angelo Harrison, Seer: Peering through Aurora (2020)

Detroit-based artist Matthew Angelo Harrison works between the fields of anthropology, cultural theory, engineering, and computer science. For this work, Harrison encapsulated fragments of a car headlight in resin, specifically the curvilinear forms of the Porsche 911, made in Stuttgart, Germany. This sculpture joins an earlier work by Harrison acquired in 2019, and both look specifically at the relationship of Black labor to the automobile industry, histories of racism and exploitation, and how such histories are embedded in the cars we drive today. This work is currently featured in the major exhibition InterStates of Mind: Rewriting the Map of the United States in the Age of the Automobile.

Cristina Kahlo, Pulsus (2021)

Cristina Kahlo is a Mexican multimedia artist and great-grandniece of artist Frida Kahlo. This installation includes eight lightboxes featuring photographs of clinical files and clothing from Frida Kahlo’s 1953–54 hospitalization at the Centro Medico ABC in Mexico City at the end of her life. The interdisciplinary nature of this work—the primary documents, scholarly research, and familial histories within—will offer significant opportunities for engagement across the arts, humanities, and sciences at MSU, which is a top research university.

Jenny Kendler and Andrew Bearnot, Whale Bells (2020)

These sonic sculptures were inspired by humpback whales’ haunting songs—a rich and dynamic form of communication born of an advanced acoustic culture. The clappers of the handblown glass bells are Miocene Epoch fossilized ear bones from an ancient species of rorqual whale, which are related to modern humpbacks. This body of work was first commissioned by National Geographic, and a group of Whale Bells is now permanently installed on the ice-class polar vessel, Endurance. This work is currently featured in the exhibition Jenny Kendler: The Long Goodbye.

Kirsten Leenaars, The Broadcast (2019)

This community-based project enlisted the help of young participants from the greater Lansing area. Made in close collaboration between Dutch artist Kirsten Leenaars and the participants, video work explores vocally expressive platforms—interviews, show-and-tell, even song—that cultivate agency, creativity, and a multiplicity of viewpoints. By employing the politics of imagination and representation, it considers how media shapes and even produces our experience of reality. This work was featured in the 2019 MSU Broad Art Lab exhibition The Broadcast.

Dylan AT Miner, It spills // ziigibiise (2019)

Dylan AT Miner is a Métis artist, activist, and MSU faculty member. For this three-part painting, Miner describes the contours of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which was the site of the second largest domestic oil spill in US history in 2010. The black material used to create the definitions of the river is bitumen—a heavy crude oil. Working with bitumen to create this work, the artist draws attention to the environmental threat of resource extraction and the dangers of oil pipelines to the balance of our fragile ecosystems. This work is currently featured in the major exhibition Seeds of Resistance.

Caroline Monnet, Transatlantic (2018)

Caroline Monnet’s work explores Indigenous identity and storytelling, and the complexity and fragmentation of cultural histories and geographies. The film Transatlantic documents Monnet’s twenty-two day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard a cargo ship transporting steel for US car manufacturing. Monnet grew up between Quebec, Canada and Brittany, France, and positions the Atlantic Ocean as a middle ground, a point of cultural and spiritual contact, between her Algonquin and French ancestries. This work is currently featured in the exhibition Caroline Monnet: Bridging Distance.

Claire Pentecost, Soil-erg (2012)

The multi-layered project Soil-erg reconsiders the role of soil as a measure of both environmental and social health. Rather than following the gold standard (currently used for the basis of our global economy), Claire Pentecost instead offers an alternative model built upon the value of healthy soil. She formalizes this by creating a series of sculptural objects from handmade soil, or compost, and pairs this with a series of 43 drawings in the form of oversized paper bills. The drawings depict historical figures that have made critical contributions to an ecological understanding of agriculture, non-human creatures of the soil-food web, and writers, philosophers, anthropologists, artists who have broadened our understanding of ourselves as part of a wider ecological system. This work is currently featured in the major exhibition Seeds of Resistance.

Betsabeé Romero, Eterno peregrinaje (Eternal Pilgrimage) (2014) and Al migrante desconocido (To the Unknown Migrant) (2014)

Betsabeé Romero uses common materials—in the case of the two acquired works, she uses automobile tires—and combines traditional Mexican and pre-Hispanic iconographies to reflect on social, political, and environmental concerns. The tires are carved on both sides in a process the artist describes as akin to tattooing: she carves into the rubber and then fills in the motifs with metallic paint. Through its integration of pre-Colombian symbolism, the works provide a complementary contemporary perspective to other anthropological holdings on MSU’s campus.

Clarissa Tossin, When two places look alike (2012-13)

Clarissa Tossin’s work investigates cross-cultural and economic interactions between the United States and her home country Brazil by overlaying photographic fragments of houses from two different towns: Belterra, Brazil, and Alberta, Michigan. Both were industry towns developed by Henry Ford, who attempted to export modest Michigan single-family homes to his Brazilian settlement. Tossin’s photographic series thus draws attention to the auto industry’s early global spread, and how it furthered the settler colonial project. This work is currently featured in the major exhibition InterStates of Mind: Rewriting the Map of the United States in the Age of the Automobile.

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