Pattern ID Opens at the Akron Art Museum January 23, 2010
For Release: December 2009
Akron, Ohio, December 15, 2009 — What’s your Pattern ID? Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all have a Pattern ID. It is revealed in the clothing we wear and the interiors with which we surround ourselves. Damask silk, Indian brocade and Burberry plaid each carry specific cultural associations. The aesthetic choices we make every day communicate subtle and not so subtle messages about who we are and where we’ve come from — our cultural identities.
Pattern ID, on view at the Akron Art Museum January 23 – May 9, 2010, calls attention to the fact that cultural identity is not so clear-cut these days.
Including painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media and video, this visually stunning, vibrant exhibition presents fifteen artists of diverse origins who manipulate pattern and dress to define as well as expand their cultural identities. Taking a range of approaches from humor to irony and formal beauty, these artists borrow from popular culture, world history, and art history to transform and redefine the cultural meanings of patterns.
“The artists use pattern and dress to take up the 21st century challenge of locating one’s place in society against the backdrop of globalization,” said Ellen Rudolph, the museum’s curator of exhibitions. “Many of the artists in the exhibition have migrated from one culture to another, be it national, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, political or religious. Rather than trade one identity for another, the artists in Pattern ID reveal ways in which identity can be cumulative.”
The approximately 40 works in Pattern ID include those of: Mark Bradford, (b. 1961, Los Angeles, CA); iona rozeal brown (b. 1966, Washington DC); Nick Cave (b. 1959, Jefferson City, MO); Willie Cole (b. 1955, Somerville, NJ); Lalla Essaydi (b. 1955, Morocco); Samuel Fosso (b. 1962, Cameroon); James Gobel (b. 1972, Las Vegas, NV); Brian Jungen (b. 1970, Fort St. John, British Columbia); Bharti Kher (b. 1969, London); Takashi Murakami (b. 1963, Tokyo); Grace Ndiritu (b. 1976, Birmingham, England); Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962, London); Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, NJ); Aya Uekawa (b. 1979, Tokyo); Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977, Los Angeles, CA)
The artists cross boundaries of time, place, culture and gender to interweave their histories with those of others. From headless mannequins dressed in Afro-Victorian garb to paintings made entirely of Indian bindis and hip-hop youth portrayed in the style of Japanese woodblock prints, each artist places these patterns into new contexts to offer insight into complex cultural relationships. Woven from NBA and NFL jerseys, Brian Jungen’s Blankets link the “tribal” rituals of the Swiss-Canadian/Native American artist’s own Dane-zaa Nation with behaviors of professional sports teams and their fans.
A Moroccan woman now living in the United States, Lalla Essaydi examines the repression of Arab women through her application of Islamic calligraphy to every surface in her scenes. Painstakingly applied in henna, these writings represent both male and female traditions in Islamic culture. Calligraphy is strictly a male practice, while henna designs are used and applied exclusively by women. Essaydi allows her models the unusual freedom to speak publicly through their poses and adornment.
Based on Old Master portraits, Kehinde Wiley’s paintings mix time, culture and race to recast historical figures as young black men. For each of his portraits, he invites his sitters, young black men he meets on the streets of major urban centers, to strike a pose from an art historical painting. Wiley photographs his subjects in their street clothes—hip-hop gear—and then paints them amid decorative, richly patterned backgrounds.
Mickalene Thomas addresses exoticized stereotypes of black femininity while also exploring how her women fit into the visual record of art history. Thomas looks at black female sexuality from her perspective as a gay African-American woman who formed her ideas of beauty and femininity while growing up in New Jersey in the 1970s and 1980s. Influenced by her stylish mother (a former fashion model), imagery in Jet and Ebony magazines, 1970s funk and soul music and trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas’ rhinestone-encrusted paintings unite personal experience, popular culture and art history.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE uses elaborately patterned Dutch wax printed cotton, which is manufactured in Europe but widely associated with West African culture, as the basis for his identity play. He visually manifests the links between African and European cultures by fashioning Dutch wax cotton into Victorian costumes, which he places on racially ambiguous, headless mannequins. Shonibare uses vignettes from European art and history as the basis for his sculptural installations and photographs.
Pattern ID places the complexities of cultural experience at the forefront of current artistic concerns. The artists express their personal and societal histories in vivid, tangible forms, proving pattern to be a rich tool with which to communicate. They advance a new collective aesthetic memory through their visual narratives.
Accompanying the exhibition is an 80-page fully color, hard-cover catalogue with essays by Rudolph, who organized the exhibition, and textile and fashion historian Cecilia Gunzburger Anderson. Each work in the exhibition is illustrated. Published by the Akron Art Museum, the book is designed by Christopher Hoot, associate professor of graphic design at the University of Akron Mary Schiller Myers School of Art. It will be available for purchase in the Museum Store for $29.95.
Pattern ID is organized by the Akron Art Museum. Its presentation is made possible by generous gifts from the Adam Fund of Akron Community Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Herb and Dianne Newman, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Toby D. Lewis Philanthropic Fund.
“Show Your Pattern ID”
Friday, January 22, 2010, 8 - 10 pm
Are you paisley and plaid? Stripes and floral? Splashes of color and bling? Or perhaps you even have multi-cultural influences? Put it all together for the “Show Your Pattern ID” Preview Party. Dive into your wardrobe to create your most exotic, colorful, flamboyant outfit for this party. Fun prizes will be awarded throughout the evening. Adding to the event, a live DJ will be spinning a mash-up of global grooves and old school rhymes, plus dancing, appetizers and a cash bar. Free for museum members, $6 for Western Reserve PBS members, $10 for non-members.
Group Tours: Pattern IDentity Crisis
The museum education department is offering a special adult tour program called Pattern IDentity Crisis to Kiwanis clubs, seniors, ladies who lunch, college students and any other group excited to participate in an interactive tour experience that will offer you a crash course in hot, young, global contemporary artists and get you thinking about identity related issues. Call 330.376.9186 x229 to book a tour.
Third Thursday concert
The Walkies & Fast Molasses and the Flavored Blacks
Thursday, January 21, 2010, 6:30 – 9 pm
Enjoy an evening of country-bluegrass-blues infused rock ‘n’ roll to keep you warm during the long winter. The Walkies combine disparate influences of Earl Scruggs and the Feelies. Fast Molasses and the Flavored Blacks incorporate howls and harmonicas along with guitars and maracas to provide an intimate blues jam. Just as the evening’s bands reflect a mish-mash of different styles, stop by ARTLab to show off all the different styles that reflect you by creating your own Pattern ID badge, inspired by the soon to open exhibition. This event is free and features a cash bar.
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes
Thursday, February 25, 2010, 7 pm
Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium
From Kehinde Wiley to Mark Bradford and iona rozeal brown, many of the artists featured in Pattern ID are inspired by hip-hop culture and find ways to incorporate it into their artwork. Yet the same counter culture movement often discriminates against women, gays and other groups these artists associate themselves with. Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, an official selection of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, is a riveting examination of representations of manhood in hip-hop culture. It features interviews with hip-hop moguls and rap superstars such as Russell Simons, Mos Def, Chuck D and Busta Rhymes. Seating for this free screening is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Willie Cole Lecture
Thursday, April 15, 2010, 6 pm
Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium
Emerging onto the contemporary art scene in the early ‘90s with a series of extraordinary "scorch paintings," Willie Cole has established himself as a major contemporary artist working in the tradition of the found object. The scorch paintings reference African tribal markings, domestic labor and personal family history, and have resembled masks, slave ships and flowers. Cole's sculptures built from recycled objects such as high-heel shoes, hair dryers and bicycle parts similarly reference a broad range of cultural practices, particularly African art traditions. His work is also featured in the MOCA Cleveland exhibition From Then to Now: Masterworks of African-American Art. Seating for this free lecture is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lecture produced in collaboration with the Myers School of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.
Thursday, April 29, 6 pm
Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium
Tavia Nyong’o, associate professor of Performance Studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts will lecture on the intersections of race and sexuality, visual art and performance as they pertain to the artwork in Pattern ID. This lecture is free with first-come, first-serve seating available.
About the Akron Art Museum
Dedicated to enriching lives through modern art, the Akron Art Museum showcases regional, national and international art created since 1850. The museum’s permanent collection houses over 4,000 objects. Particular areas of strength include American painting and sculpture since 1960, 20th century American and international photography and American impressionist and tonalist paintings. The museum also highlights modernism and regionalism in northeast Ohio from the 1910s to 1950, including the work of William Sommer, this region's most important historical artist. The Akron Art Museum is the only place in the nation where Sommer's work is on permanent view.
In addition to the collection galleries, a dozen special exhibitions each year present celebrated artists in various media, including painting, sculpture, photography and video. The Museum also offers a host of dynamic educational programs for all ages including family drop in events, films, lectures, art workshops and concerts.
Founded in 1922, the museum re-opened to the public in July 2007 in a breathtaking expansion designed by Austrian architectural firm COOP HIMMEL(b)LAU. Spanning three centuries and featuring 20,000 square feet of gallery space, the Akron Art Museum combines a late 19th century brick and limestone building with the 21st century John S. and James L. Knight Building, a soaring glass and steel structure described by critics as a work-of-art itself. In 2008, after winning one of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ International Awards, the museum was further honored by being chosen as one of only three worldwide finalists for the Lubetkin Prize.
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