Northwestern University: May 2011 Visual Arts Calendar

– We offer Northwestern’s visual art schedule to our readers as a show of gratitude for their continued support. –

Artist Kiki Smith to visit Block Museum May 12, Nnenna Okore works at Dittmar Gallery

An exhibition exploring the role photography plays in artist Kiki Smith’s work and an interactive installation by Chicago-based art collective Temporary Services are on display at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum in May.

Artist Kiki Smith will visit the Block Museum May 12 to speak with Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, about her work. The public is invited to attend the 7 p.m. program.

Block Museum also is hosting the MFA Thesis Exhibition. Other events include a screening of a documentary on Smith and docent-led tours for adults or student groups of the spring exhibitions.

Northwestern’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery will host “On The Edge,” an exhibition by Nigerian-born and Chicago-based artist Nnenna Okore, through May 8, and the Senior Art Majors Exhibition from May 13 through June 13.


The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, is located on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.

Admission to the museum and all programs is free, unless noted. For more information on exhibitions, programs or location, phone (847) 491-4000 or go to the Block Museum website at


“I Myself Have Seen it: Photography and Kiki Smith,” through Aug. 14, Main Gallery. A major figure in contemporary art, Kiki Smith is best known for her sculpture, prints and drawings exploring the human body and nature. This exhibition examines the ways Smith thinks and articulates her ideas through the camera, and includes images the artist has used as source material, photographs of her work that suggest new meanings for her art, and her explorations of photography as an independent art form. The exhibition was organized by the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and curated by Henry’s chief curator Elizabeth Brown, with support from Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and ArtsFund.

“Social Mobility: Collaborative Projects with Temporary Services,” through Aug. 14, Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery. The Chicago-based artist group Temporary Services has gained attention for its experimental methods of and strategies for making and displaying art. Through social actions, do-it-yourself projects, publications and public interventions, the artists Brett Bloom, Marc Fischer and Salem Collo-Julin aim to raise awareness about social, economic, environmental and political issues. The exhibition showcases “Designated Drivers,” an installation in which visitors can view and download art work by 20 artists as well as older projects, such as “Self-Reliance Library,” which includes many of Temporary Services’ own publications on creativity and alternative living, and “Personal Plastic,” an exploration of plastic shopping bags and their presence in our lives.

Work by Theo Leffmann

MFA Thesis Exhibition From the Department of Art Theory and Practice, May 6 through June 19, Alsdorf Gallery. This exhibition represents the culmination of the course of study
for the master of fine arts degree from Northwestern University. The works vary in style and conceptual approach, each manifesting the individual vision of the artist. This year’s exhibiting artists include Haig Aivazian, Cameron Crawford, Crystal Heiden, Eric May and Chris Naka. Support for the exhibition is provided by the Norton S. Walbridge Fund and the Myers Foundations.

“Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” through Aug. 14, Theo Leffmann Gallery. Artist Theo Leffmann’s 40-year-career coincided with a revolution in textile art in the mid-20th century, as divisions between “high art” (painting and sculpture) and craft diminished. This display of her colorful, richly textured and playful weavings, wall hangings and sculptural objects is drawn from the Block Museum’s permanent collection.


Docent-led Adult Tours of the Spring 2011 exhibitions, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 19. Tours of the exhibitions will be held on Saturdays only from June 25 to Aug. 13. Tours begin in the museum lobby. Reservations are not necessary.

Docent-led Group and School Tours by Appointment. The Block Museum offers free docent-led tours to groups of eight or more. The 45-minute tours are available each day the museum is open. The Block also provides hourlong interactive tours and activities for school groups. Arrangements for group or school tours should be made at least four weeks in advance by e-mailing blockeducation@northwestern.edu. Visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/education for more information.


Work by Nnenna Okore

MFA Thesis Exhibition Opening Reception, 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 6. Join the Block Museum staff and the artists and faculty members of Northwestern’s department of art theory and practice in a celebration of this year’s MFA Thesis Exhibition. Associate professor Steve Reinke will discuss the exhibition and the work of the graduate student artists at 6 p.m.

Guided tours of Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center, 2 and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 7, 1034 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago. MFA Thesis Exhibition artist Eric May will lead tours of the art exhibition venue he operates in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

The Wolf at Your Doorstep, 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 11. MFA Thesis Exhibition artist Haig Aivazian will present a multimedia lecture and performance about architecture, language and subjectivity.

A Conversation with Kiki Smith, 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12. Artist Kiki Smith will speak with Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, about her work.

E-Dogz Mobile Culinary Community Center2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 14. MFA Thesis Exhibition artist Eric May will set up a food cart outside the Block Museum to offer cuisine and culinary education.

Block Cinema screening, “Kiki Smith: Squatting the Palace,” 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21 (Vivien Bittencourt and Vincent Katz, 2006, United States, DigiBeta, 45 minutes). This film documents various stages in the conception, creation and exhibition of Smith’s installation “Homespun Tales,” which publicly premiered in 2005 at the Venice Biennale. It follows the artist’s travels from her New York East Village studio to a Venice gallery, as she creates and installs a widely acclaimed solo exhibition.


The Sculpture Garden of Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art constitutes one of the most significant groupings of modern sculpture in the region. In 1987, Leigh Block, one of the museum’s inaugural donors and a preeminent collector of modern art, bequested a large group of outdoor bronze sculptures to the museum. These pieces formed the core of the collection, which now features monumental sculptures by some of the 20th century’s most renowned European and American sculptors, including Barbara Hepworth, Jacques Lipchitz and Henry Moore.

In 1989, the Block Museum opened its Sculpture Garden with nine monumental bronzes donated by Leigh Block. The Sculpture Garden was designed by Chicago architect John Vinci and through donations and acquisitions has grown to 22 pieces. Located on the Evanston campus, it is open year-round. For more information about the Sculpture Garden, visitwww.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/collections/sculpture.html.

Work by Barbara Hepworth in the Sculpture Garden


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston
campus. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The gallery places emphasis on ethnic cultural art, art by emerging artists, art by or about women, artwork by Northwestern undergraduate and graduate art students and traveling art shows. For information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit the Dittmar website at www.dittmar.northwestern.edu.

Nnenna Okore, “On the Edge,” through May 8, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. This exhibition of Chicago-based and Nigerian-born artist Nnenna Okore features many works constructed from handmade paper layered with fibrous materials and dyes. Okore transforms discarded newspaper, rope, burlap and clay into intricate sculptures and installations. For more about the artist, visit www.nnennaokore.com.

Senior Art Majors Exhibition, “A Whiner’s Torso,” May 13 through June 13, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. This exhibition features the work of the Class of 2011 undergraduate art majors enrolled in Northwestern’s department of art theory and practice. The work on display reflects the students’ varied approaches to contemporary art-making. Displaying artists are seniors Claire Anderson, Zac Farley, Nelson Fitch, Kathryn Floyd, Tina Frank, Danny Hirsch, Carol Kim and Kari Rayner. An opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 13, is free and open to the public.

Nathalie Rayter, a senior in the School of Education and Social Policy, contributed to this story.
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