Exhibits

Imaging/Imagining the Human Body

Imaging Imagining exhibition - 3 images of handsThree-venue exhibition at the University of Chicago examines anatomical representation from artistic and scientific perspectives throughout history

March 25–June 20, 2014

A multi-venue exhibition curated by two physicians at the University of Chicago explores the history of anatomical representation and the evolving relationship between the arts and medical science. On view from March 25–June 20, Imaging/Imagining the Human Body in Anatomical Representation is jointly presented in three parts by the Special Collections Research Center (The Body as Text), Smart Museum of Art (The Body as Art), and The John Crerar Library (The Body as Data) in collaboration with the UChicago Arts|Science Initiative. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The exhibition includes over 60 works in a variety of media—drawings, rare manuscripts, sculptures, engravings, and radiographic images—dating from the Renaissance to today. It features both imaginative depictions of the human figure made by artists as well as scientific images of the body, and traces the interplay of artistic and medical imaging throughout history.

“In popular perception, the artist depicts the human figure for aesthetic or expressive purposes, while scientific images of the body lay claim to objective representation,” write the curators, Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine, at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. “In fact, the story of anatomical representation is far more complex.”

As Imaging/Imagining reveals, early anatomical illustrations required close collaboration between anatomists and artists, illustrators, and engravers. These images reflected scientific conventions but were also weighted with aesthetic, social, political, and religious meaning. As anatomical images became more medicalized, the disciplines diverged. Following the advent of the X-ray at the turn of the twentieth century, the divide widened as new imaging technologies allowed medical practitioners to visualize the body as never before. At the same time, modernism and abstraction radically transformed artistic practice, which had for centuries emphasized the centrality of the well-drawn figure. Today, modern medical imaging continues to inform artists’ perceptions of the body while still relying in part on the subjective hand of an expert to manipulate and reinterpret layers of data into a visual form.

“A project like Imaging/Imagining transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries in a way that enriches our understanding,” said Julie Marie Lemon, Program Director and Curator of the Arts|Science Initiative in the Office of the Provost at the University of Chicago. “The exhibition is an example of the sort of sustained dialogue the Arts|Science Initative seeks to foster between artistic and scientific forms of inquiry within the University and beyond.”

The exhibition’s themes will be explored in greater depth through several public programs, notably the talk on Thursday, April 17 at 5 pm, “Seeing Into and Seeing Through: The Promise and Peril of Imaging” by Dr. Richard B. Gunderman, Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, and Vice Chair of Radiology at Indiana University.

Exhibition Sections

Imaging/Imagining runs concurrently across three venues, each with a dedicated section that contributes to the larger themes of the exhibition.

Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Text

March 25–June 20, 2014
Special Collections Research Center, Joseph Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th Street
Monday–Friday, 9 am–4:45 pm; Saturdays, 9 am–12:45 pm (when University of Chicago classes are in session); closed Sunday

The Body as Text explores the history of anatomical representation from the Renaissance to the turn of the twentieth century. It features illustrated anatomic texts, like Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica and Henry Gray’s Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical, that map the body’s complex systems and functions, as well as prints, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and radiographs. The objects on view are drawn from the holdings of the Special Collections Research Center and the Smart Museum of Art.

Together, the works prompt viewers not only to examine the intent of the image makers and the intended function of the image but also to explore our contemporary understanding of the human body in the context of a broad history of anatomical representation and scientific progress.

The Body as Text is curated by Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine, at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, in collaboration with Catherine Uecker, Rare Books Librarian, Special Collections.

Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art

March 25–June 22, 2014
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Tuesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm; Thursday until 8 pm; closed Monday

The Body as Art gathers images of the body from a range of historical periods and considers the extent to which they conform to established representational conventions or seem instead to reflect the artist’s own observations or expressive goals. It features works drawn from the Smart’s collection and the holding of the Special Collections Research Center. Highlights include figurative etchings; sculpture by Edgar Degas, Henry Moore, and Jacques Lipchitz; a cubist portrait by Jean Metzinger; prints by Otto Dix; and a sketchbook of watercolor drawings by Ivan Albright.

This section of the exhibition asks visitors to consider the enduring role of figure drawing in academic art study; the relation between artistic and scientific abstraction; the depiction of bodily suffering in wartime; and what art and medicine have to offer each other in the pursuit of accuracy, humanity, and empathy, when it comes to representing the body.

The Body as Art is curated by Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine, at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, in collaboration with Anne Leonard, Smart Museum Curator and Associate Director of Academic Initiatives.

The Body as Art is made possible by Smart Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment.

Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Data

March 25–June 20, 2014
The John Crerar Library, The University of Chicago, 5730 S. Ellis Avenue
Monday—Saturday, 9 am–4:30 pm; closed Sunday

The Body as Data examines the data revolution of modern medical imaging that has transformed anatomical representation and how we view the body. This data revolution occurred when the basic concepts behind x-ray technology combined with the capabilities of computers. The result is imaging technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans that produce vast amounts of data which is then processed into modern anatomical representations.

These images often claim scientific neutrality and are viewed with a clinical gaze, yet they are more than objective and unaltered pictures of the body. They represent the body broken apart into bits of data that are then manipulated to produce a myriad of visually interpretable images. These images have in turn informed artists’ perceptions of the body and further pushed the boundaries of how we view the human form.

The Body as Data is curated by Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine, at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine in collaboration with Stephen Thomas, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiology, and Adam Schwertner, fourth year medical student at the Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago.

Related Programs

Family Day: Ultrasounds, Exquisite Corpses

Saturday, April 5, 1–4 pm
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue

Drop by the Smart for an afternoon of family-friendly art activities. Combine ultrasounds with the ultimate Surrealist parlor game to make exquisite corpse drawings from ultrasound images of your internal structures. The ultrasound machine will be operated by Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine and co-curator of the exhibition Imaging/Imagining.*

Free. All materials provided. Activities are best for kids ages 4–12, accompanied by an adult.

*The purpose of the ultrasound demonstration at the Smart’s Family Day is educational only. The ultrasound machine is not being used for any medical or diagnostic purpose.

The Body in 3D

Thursday, April 17, 3–5 pm
The John Crerar Library, The University of Chicago, 5730 S. Ellis Avenue, Kathleen A. Zar Room

Drop by Crerar Library and watch a 3D video tour of the human body including the brain and other internal organs. Using images captured with contemporary medical scanning technologies this looping film will run every 5-10 minutes. 3D glasses will be provided.

Lecture: “Seeing Into and Seeing Through: The Promise and Peril of Imaging”

Thursday, April 17, 5 pm
Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th Street, room 122

Dr. Richard B. Gunderman, author of X-Ray Vision: The Evolution of Medical Imaging and its Human Significance, will explore the exhibition’s themes in a free public lecture. Dr. Gunderman is Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, and Vice Chair of Radiology at Indiana University.

Free. Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.

How to Draw Hands

Thursday, April 17, 5:30–7:30 pm
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue

The human hand is notoriously hard to draw. Learn some tricks and techniques during a fun and supportive sketching session.

Free. All materials provided. Open to adults of all skill levels.

Drawing the Body with the Body

Thursday, May 15, 5:30–7:30 pm
Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue

Enjoy a performance by Mordine & Co. Dance Theater and take part in a gesture drawing and sketching program. The dance, choreographed by Shirley Mordine, is inspired by works on view in Imaging/Imagining. Performing Artists: Simone Baechle, Danielle Gilmore, Joseph Hutto, Emily Lukasewski, Michael O’Neil, and Melissa Pillarella.

Free. All materials provided. Open to adults of all skill levels.

About

Imaging/Imagining is curated by Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Mindy Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine, at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. It is presented by the Special Collections Research Center, Smart Museum of Art, and The John Crerar Library in collaboration with the UChicago Arts|Science Initiative. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Images (from left to right): Detail from Henry Gray’s Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical, 1858, Rare Book Collection, The University of Chicago Library.

Walker Evans, Untitled (Two hands), n.d., printed by the Chicago Albumen Works in 1980, Gelatin silver print. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1980.107.

X-ray of a hand holding a feather duster from Walter König’s 14 Photographien mit Röntgen-Strahlen, 1896. John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine, The University of Chicago Library.

Media Images

Download high-resolution images on Dropbox.

Media Contacts

C.J. Lind, Associate Director, Communications, Smart Museum of Art, 773.702.0176, cjlind@uchicago.edu

Rachel A. Rosenberg, Director of Communications, The University of Chicago Library, 773.834.1519, ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu

Women’s Work: Scholarship by Women at UChicago

The careers of selected past and present University of Chicago women composers, philosophers, and scholars are presented in this group of coordinated mini-exhibits in Regenstein Library. The exhibits are organized in conjunction with International Women’s Day at the University of Chicago.

Exhibit Series Dates: March 3 to June 16, 2014.

2nd Floor: Academic Activism: Insights from the Social Sciences

Academic Activism word cloudSocially engaged scholarship is a long-standing tradition at the University of Chicago. This exhibit focuses on recent work by women in three disciplines–sociology, history and political science–and their participation as public intellectuals in civil society.

Organized by Sarah Hogan, Bibliographer for Sociology, Political Science, International Relations, and Public Policy; Julia Gardner, Bibliographer for Gay & Lesbian Studies and Women’s Studies; and Nancy Spiegel, Bibliographer for Art, History, and Cinema and Media Studies.

3rd Floor: Three Women Composers

Three UChicago composers

From left: Shulamit Ran, Marta Ptaszyńska, and Augusta Read Thomas

Three of the world’s most notable women composers teach in the Music Department at the University of Chicago: Shulamit Ran, Marta Ptaszyńska, Augusta Read Thomas. This exhibit will serve to celebrate these three women through handwritten manuscripts, passages from published scores, discographies and sound recordings, photos, news clippings, and reviews.

Organized by Scott Landvatter, Bibliographer for Music.

4th floor: Women and Philosophy at the University of Chicago

Pseudo-Sappho

So-called Sappho: woman with a wax tablet and a stylus. 1st c. CE Pompeii. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.Wikimedia Commons

Why are there so few women philosophers? Why does it matter? This exhibit responds to the ongoing underrepresentation of women within the field of Philosophy by highlighting the work of three University of Chicago faculty members: Hannah Arendt, Marjorie Grene, and Martha Nussbaum. Selections from their work will be juxtaposed with materials that reflect the historical and contemporary influence of women and gender tensions on the study of Philosophy at the University.

Organized by Anne Knafl, Bibliographer for Religion; Julie Huh, Philosophy, Class of 2014; and Alaina Bompiedi, Philosophy, Class of 2015.

5th floor: Maureen L. P. Patterson: Bibliographer, Scholar, Spy

Patterson I.D. card

Maureen L. P. Patterson’s Office of Strategic Services I.D. card. The University of Chicago Library.

Maureen L. P. Patterson, 1923-2012, was a scholar and pioneer in the field of South Asian librarianship, developing groundbreaking resources and building the University of Chicago’s world-renowned collection. She also led another, secret life as a member of World War II’s famed intelligence organization, the O.S.S.

Organized by Laura Ring, Assistant South Asia Librarian, and James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia.

 

Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary exhibit extended to March 22

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Original Japanese Super Metroid Box

Exhibit Title: Super Metroid: A 20th Anniversary
Dates: January 28 – March 22, 2014
Location: Regenstein Library, Third Floor and  http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/supermetroid/

One of the greatest games of all time, Super Metroid was released on March 19, 1994. It is praised for visual style and graphics, atmospheric sound design and music, and detailed environments, as well as refined controls and gameplay.

Recognizing the 20th anniversary of the game’s release, this exhibit celebrates the art of the videogame as seen in one of its early classics.  Additionally, the exhibit explores the creative activity that lies beyond the game itself, from concept art and promotional materials to the fan art the game still inspires twenty years later. The great diversity of these ancillary pieces, the variety of styles and media used to promote and interpret the game, its characters and world, remains one of the most fascinating parts of its history. The one-case exhibit on the third floor complements the online portion of the exhibit (and vice versa).

 Update, 2/27/14: The closing date of the exhibit has been extended to March 22.

Charles Otis Whitman: His Science, His Special Birds and the Marine Biological Laboratory – new web exhibit

drawing of passenger pigeon

Drawing from Posthumous Works of Charles Otis Whitman

A web version is now available of the current Crerar Library exhibit: Charles Otis Whitman:  His Science, His Special Birds and the Marine Biological Laboratory.  The physical exhibit is showing in the atrium of Crerar Library and will run until March 21st.

Exhibit Description: Charles Whitman was a pioneer in the study of animal behavior, and one of his main research interests was the passenger pigeon. He developed the field of ethology, the objective study of animal behavior in natural conditions, and created connections between the University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole where he served as president, a connection that continues today. Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, this exhibit examines Whitman’s legacy at the University of Chicago and beyond.

This exhibit was curated by Frances Vandervoort

Lecture and Reception for Exhibit: Charles Otis Whitman: His Science, His Special Birds, and the Marine Biological Laboratory

drawing of passenger pigeon

Drawing from Posthumous Works of Charles Otis Whitman

Next Monday, February 3 at 4:30 p.m. Crerar Library is hosting a lecture and reception for our exhibit: Charles Otis Whitman:  His Science, His Special Birds and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Charles Whitman was a University of Chicago professor and a a pioneer in the study of animal behavior.  One of his main research interests was the passenger pigeon.

Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky:  the Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, will be speaking.

To RSVP visit: www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/crerar/exhibits/

O Homer, Where Art Thou? Adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey: Ancient and Modern

Exhibit Location: Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: January 5 – February 28, 2014

DVD box of the film O Brother, Where Art ThouWhat do The Penelopiad of Margaret Atwood, the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou, and James Joyce’s Ulysses have in common? They were all inspired by the Odyssey of Homer.

The Iliad and the Odyssey have fascinated us for nearly 3,000 years, inspiring authors of all ages to produce a variety of creative and distinctive adaptations. Some writers have simply retold the stories in abridged form, maybe for a younger audience or simply to emphasize the most dramatic segments.  Others have retold the tales, but set them in a different time period, sometimes far into the future or in a different setting miles from the Mediterranean.  Retelling the events of the Iliad and Odyssey from another’s point of view has been a favorite vehicle for adaptation.  These narratives, either viewed through the eyes of one of the main characters or through completely made up figures, often purport to correct the Homeric account.  Sometimes an elaborate hoax serves as a narrative frame.  And, of course, parodies are an amusing nod to Homer and always delight.

Cover of Odyssey comic book published inHeavy Metal

Navarro, Francisco and José Sauri, The Odyssey (Rockville Centre, NY: Heavy Metal, 2007).

Stories from the Iliad and Odyssey have also been favorites with illustrators, both ancient and modern.  In the exhibit comic books and graphic novels are displayed alongside photographs of ancient marble panels with captioned scenes of the Homeric epics carved in low relief and a series of Roman wall paintings depicting the colorful events  of Odysseus’s voyage.

While the epics may have begun with the voice of a singing bard, they have found their way into a wide array of new media: on a stage as a play, musical, or opera, over the air waves in radio programs and television shows, and onto the silver screen from silent film to Hollywood blockbuster.

This two-case exhibit was designed as a companion exhibit to “Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works,” running from January 13 – March 15, 2014 in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery in the Joseph Regenstein Library, First Floor.

Charles Otis Whitman: His Science, His Special Birds, and the Marine Biological Laboratory

 

drawing of passenger pigeon

Drawing from Posthumous Works of Charles Otis Whitman

Charles Whitman was a pioneer in the study of animal behavior, and one of his main research interests was the passenger pigeon. He developed the field of ethology, the objective study of animal behavior in natural conditions, and created connections between the University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole where he served as president.  The connection continues today with the recent announcement of a renewed affiliation between the two institutions.  Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, this exhibit examines Whitman’s legacy at the University of Chicago and beyond.

This exhibit runs January 6 – March 21, 2014

Location: The John Crerar Library, Atrium, 5730 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago
Public Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

More information about Crerar exhibits is available here: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/crerar/exhibits/

Homer in Print: Transmission and Reception

Homer - George Chapman title page

Title page. George Chapman (1559?–1634). “The Whole Works of Homer. . . . ” London:
Printed for Nathaniell Butter, [1616]. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Exhibition Title: Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works

Dates: January 13 – March 15, 2014

Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. when classes are in session

Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Price: Free and open to the public

Curators: Alice Schreyer, Catherine Uecker, and Catherine Mardikes

Description: For almost 3,000 years, the Homeric epics have been among the best-known and most widely studied texts of Western civilization. Generations of students have read the Iliad and the Odyssey to learn Greek or to study Greek mythology, history, and culture, or for the sheer enjoyment  of the stories themselves. Concepts such as heroism, nationalism, friendship, and loyalty have been shaped by Homer’s works. Countless editions, translations, abridgements, and adaptations have appeared since the invention of printing, making Homer accessible to students, scholars, and general readers.

The Iliad comic book

Cover. “The Iliad.” New York: Gilberton Company, 1950. Classics Illustrated, no. 77. Illustrated by Alex A. Blum. Walter C. Dopierala Comic Book Collection. The University of Chicago Library.

Homer in Print puts the spotlight on the text itself, not as an object of literary or linguistic analysis, but rather as the product of a particular time, place, editor, printer, publisher, or translator. From the very first printed edition of Homer through the 21st century, every editor of a Greek edition must decide what sources should be consulted and whether notes are needed to achieve the goal of the particular edition. Translators face a host of additional choices: Will they produce a prose or verse translation, if verse then in what poetic form, and will they aim at fidelity to the words and meter or to the spirit of the “original” (however that is defined). The way each translator answers these questions reflects available sources, literary principles, and individual preferences.

The study of Homer has been part of the core curriculum at the University of Chicago since the first year of classes in 1892-93, and from its earliest days the Library built a collection strong in Greek editions, commentaries, translations, and scholarly literature. In 2007 M. C. Lang donated the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana to the University of Chicago. He had formed the collection, consisting of 187 separate items, with the goal of tracing the transmission of the text in printed form. Homer in Print draws on this splendid gift as well as Homeric works acquired before and afterwards to tell this story.

Among the editions and translations in the exhibition ranging from the 15th century to the 21st are the earliest printed edition of Homer; editions and translations aimed at scholars, students, children, and other specialized audiences; scholarship; and finely printed, illustrated, and graphic editions. Together they illustrate the profound influence of the Homeric poems on classical studies, the history of printing and print culture, textual editing, translation studies, and the development of English language and literature as well as their enduring appeal to this day.

 

First page of the Odyssey

The first page of Alexander Pope (1688–1744). “The Odyssey of Homer.” London: Printed for Bernard Lintot, 1725–26. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago.

Associated Publication

A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library. Edited by Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer. Published by the University of Chicago Library. Distributed by University of Chicago Press.

 

Associated Web Exhibit

Visit lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/homerinprint

 

Associated Event

Colloquium Title: The Homeric Library: Translations, Editions, Commentaries

When: Friday, February 14, 2014

Where: Regenstein Library, Room 122, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Description: This colloquium will explore the paths through Homer’s poetry opened by the University of Chicago Library’s Homer collection, which stretches from the 15th century to the 21st. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the University of Chicago Library in conjunction with the exhibition Homer in Print at the Special Collections Research Center.

Speakers include Glenn Most, University of Chicago and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; Larry Norman, University of Chicago; Sophie Rabau, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3; Tiphaine Somoyault, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3; and David Wray, University of Chicago.

 

Use of Images

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  Email Rachel Rosenberg (phone: 773-834-1519) or Joseph Scott (phone: 773-702-6655)  to request high-resolution images.

The Iliad in Greek, 1497-1599?

A passage from “The Iliad” printed in Greek. Johann Herwagen (1497–1559?). “Homeri Ilias et Vlyssea. . . .” Basel: Apud Io. Hervagium, 1535. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

 

Cover of Lattimore Iliad

Dust jacket. Richmond Alexander Lattimore (1906–1984). “The Iliad of Homer. . . .” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. Rare Books Collection, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

‘A different way of learning about history’

Christopher Dingwall with album covers

Ph.D. candidate Christopher Dingwall explores race and consumer culture as a curator

The exhibition Race and the Design of American Life: African Americans in Twentieth-Century Commercial Art runs through January 4 in the Special Collections Research Center. Rachel Rosenberg interviewed Christopher Dingwall, a Ph.D. candidate in History, to learn about his first experience as a curator and the exhibition itself.

Tell me a bit about the exhibition.

Jazzin' the Cotton Town Blues

Roger Lewis and Harry Olsen. Jazzin’ the Cotton Town Blues. New York: M. Witmark & Sons, 1917. John Steiner Collection. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

Images of African Americans have appeared on a wide range of consumer goods throughout the twentieth century, from Aunt Jemima’s pancakes to the Air Jordan basketball shoe. But these images did more than sell things. The exhibit explores how commercial art capitalized on—and gave powerful form to—widely held racist attitudes among white Americans throughout the twentieth century. It also illustrates how many corporations and designers, white and black, used graphic design to envision the place of African Americans in American society—from the nadir of Jim Crow racial segregation to the advent of the Civil Rights Movement.

With racial imagery, American advertisers and consumers gave social meaning to the mass produced things of modern consumer culture. Particularly for African American entrepreneurs and artists, the graphic design of race could be used as a powerful tool to claim their place as consumers and as citizens in American society.

What got you interested in this subject originally?

It comes out of my dissertation, Selling Slavery: Memory, Culture, and the Renewal of America, 1876-1920. There I explore how images of slavery get commodified, mass produced and consumed. I’m asking why slavery became a way to sell movies, postcards, food products, and very modern cultural products.

The exhibit came out of my curiosity about what happens next, after 1920. In a way, it’s an epilogue to the dissertation I’m currently writing, but curating the exhibit is a different sort of intellectual challenge and involves different ways of thinking about how I’m using objects and how I’m going to try to explain them to audiences. It’s a way for me to explore a different kind of scholarly communication directed at a public audience rather than scholarly, academic readers.

Did your ideas about the subject evolve much as you worked on it?

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Sound.DS-408. Chicago: Delmark, 1966. Art Ensemble of Chicago Series, vol. 1. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago. Cover design by Sylvia Abernathy; photograph by Billy Abernathy

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Sound.DS-408. Chicago: Delmark, 1966. Art Ensemble of Chicago Series, vol. 1. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago. Cover design by Sylvia Abernathy; photograph by Billy Abernathy

Yes. Originally I thought that the exhibition would focus on racial memorabilia and would present a narrative of how racial imagery evolved over the twentieth century. The Special Collections staff was pretty keen on the idea, and Dan Meyer, the Director of the Special Collections Research Center, gave me other suggestions for collections to look at. He pointed me to sheet music and record albums, the archives of Chicago printing company R. R. Donnelley & Sons, and the Yoffee Ephemera Collection, which includes records, games, playing cards, and little figurines.

So my focus expanded from racial memorabilia to how race works in consumer society more broadly. The different collections I saw spoke to different ways that race worked and different kinds of dynamics between graphic designers, corporations selling these images, the products they were selling, and where the products were used in the home. In the end, although each part of the exhibit advances a history that moves forward through time and shows changes, particularly in the role of African Americans as consumers and designers, I decided that each section of the exhibit should focus on a different kind of relationship between the image, its makers, and its ultimate consumers.

Can you tell me about some of the imagery in the exhibit?

One thing that fascinated me was how the advertisements represented blackness in abstract forms to different effects. In blackface minstrelsy, white men impersonated African Americans by blacking their faces with burnt cork, which allowed them to turn blackness into an object of hate and profit, but also to project onto it all kinds of fears and anxieties facing white working men in the new industrial age. The blackface mask was so powerful that advertisers adopted it as an image to sell modern industrial products toward the end of the nineteenth century.

But blackness could be abstracted in other ways to project different visions of African American life. Take, for instance, the albums produced by African American entrepreneur Henry Pace for Black Swan Records in the 1920s. “Black Swan” was an allusion to a nineteenth-century black opera singer Elizabeth Greenfield, and the image of a swan on the records became a sign that signified musical talent and heritage. A more modern example would be the Nike Air Jordan jump man. A silhouette of Michael Jordan holds a basketball in mid-air. It coded blackness as physical prowess, but also transcendent flight, escape.

Obviously, some of the images on display here have been and continue to be especially painful for African Americans. Have you given special thought to how you want to address and analyze those images in the exhibit?

Mcintyre, "Humility in the Light of the Creator"

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. Humility in Light of the Creator. DS-419. Chicago: Delmark, 1969. Modern Jazz Series.
Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library. Cover design by Zbigniew Jastrzebski.

Yes, absolutely. That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I don’t want to show these images gratuitously. They come from a dark time in American history when this was a part of everyday life. But I think to leave it at that would be a huge mistake because we are not yet over this history. The blackface images are not just some bygone, antiquarian caricature; they were here at the heart of the birth of our modern mass culture, and we are still dealing with that legacy. But these images change. African Americans protested, revised, and transformed the imagery and changed the terms by which images of race could be figured in consumer culture.

I’m trying to show this material in a way that provokes thought about how race is still a big part of consumer culture. I hope that, after you see this exhibit, you can go outside and see a sign or a billboard with an African American figure on it and ask yourself how it plays on the same kind of tropes, feelings, and associations that were used in earlier racial imagery in American design, as well as how the imagery has changed.

So you have important educational objectives for visitors to this exhibition. Are there other ways you expect to use your curatorial experience in your teaching?

Right now I’m a preceptor and supervise history seniors as they write their BA essays, and I’ll be teaching a course of my own in the spring. I hope to bring these students to Special Collections to show them the range of materials available there: books and printed material but also things that you wouldn’t expect a library to have, albums and three-dimensional objects, consumer goods. They offer a different way of learning about history.

Visit the associated web exhibit at lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/raceanddesign

Lecture and Reception for Exhibit: From Sausage to Hot Dogs: The Evolution of an Icon

Matty's hot dog stand on Maxwell Street.  Photo by Patty Carroll

Matty’s hot dog stand on Maxwell Street. Photo by Patty Carroll

Next Tuesday, November 12th at 5pm Crerar Library is hosting a lecture and reception for our exhibit From Sausage to Hot Dogs: the Evolution of an IconBruce Kraig and Patty Carroll, authors of a book about the history of hot dogs, will be speaking on the history of sausage and hot dog production in Chicago. 

To RSVP visit: www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/crerar/exhibits/

 

Benjamin Britten’s Literary Connections

A photo of Benjamin Britten and his friend W.H. Auden

Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden

The 3rd Floor of Regenstein Library is playing host to a single case exhibit on Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) as part of a larger campus celebration of the centennial of Britten’s birth.  This exhibit focuses on Britten’s literary connections, highlighting the links between music and literature seen in his work.  Over his career Britten set many poetic works to music including work by Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen and Britten’s personal friend W.H. Auden.  This exhibit displays excerpts from many of Britten’s work alongside the original texts from which they are adapted.  Also included are several works adapted from folk poems and short stories, including work by Guy de Maupassant.  The exhibit runs from November 1 through December 18, 2013. 

From Sausage to Hot Dogs: the Evolution of an Icon

Matty's hot dog stand on Maxwell Street.  Photo by Patty Carroll

Matty’s hot dog stand on Maxwell Street. Photo by Patty Carroll

The hot dog is an American creation, and Chicago even has its own style.  But where did this popular food come from and how did it develop?  This exhibit looks to the hot dog’s origins in sausage-making practices brought by European immigrants to the Midwest.  We consider techniques used in neighborhood butcher shops and the rise of industrial meat production.  Homemade recipes and artisanal makers past and present are also examined.

This exhibit runs October 29 – December 31, 2013

Location: The John Crerar Library, Atrium, 5730 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago
Public Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Exhibit curated by Bruce Kraig, Patty Carroll, Gerry Rounds, Eleanor Hanson and Andrea Katavic

More information about Crerar exhibits is available here: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/crerar/exhibits/

Race and the Design of American Life: African Americans in Twentieth-Century Commercial Art

Exhibition: Race and the Design of American Life: African Americans in Twentieth-Century Commercial Art

Dates: October 14, 2013 – January 4, 2014

Kenny Burrell cover illustration by Andy Warhol

Kenny Burrell. BLP-1543. New York: Blue Note, 1956. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library. Cover design by Reid K. Miles; illustration by Andy Warhol.

Description: Images of African Americans have outfitted myriad mass-produced consumer goods in the twentieth century, from Aunt Jemima’s pancakes to the Air Jordan basketball shoe. How has graphic design shaped the relationship between the politics of race and mass consumption? How have African American entrepreneurs and artists used design to shape their own images of “the race”? Drawing from collections of food packaging, print advertisements, children’s books, album covers, and toys, this exhibit traces the vexed history of racial design, from stark racist caricature to the productions of black-owned advertising firms. It explores how graphic design capitalized on racist attitudes; it also illustrates how for many corporations, designers, and consumers, graphic design was used to envision and transform the place of African Americans in society. As a market force and aesthetic style, graphic design emerged as a material and often intimate activity that wove race into the fabric of everyday life.

Curator: Christopher Dingwall, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago

Price: Free and open to the public

Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery,
1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Hours: Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–12:45 p.m. when classes are in session

Associated Event

Conference: Invisible Designs: New Perspectives on Race and American Consumer Capitalism
Dates: October 24-25, 2013
Location: Regenstein Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Invisible Designs aims to gather faculty and graduate students from the humanities and social sciences whose work explores new directions in the study of race and American consumer capitalism. We are particularly interested in approaches to the material and visual “design” of race in consumer goods, from household goods to corporate brands to Hollywood films. Recently, such approaches have illuminated otherwise “invisible” cultural logics and historical processes that have woven racial difference into the fabric of American life. Ultimately, we believe that racial design comprises a common and rich field and has begun to have a significant impact on the way many scholars think about the American consumer economy.

For more information and to register, visit invisibledesigns2013.sites.uchicago.edu.

Use of Images

These images from the exhibition are available for members of the media, and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.  Email Rachel Rosenberg (phone: 773-834-1519) or Joseph Scott (phone: 773-702-6655)  to request high-resolution images.

Items from "Race and the Design of American Life" exhibition.

Items from “Race and the Design of American Life” exhibition. Left: American Negro Exposition Official Program, 1940. Center: Zanzibar Brand Bitter Almond Flavor, 1924. Golden Shred Eraser, 2002. Right: Back cover from A Century of Negro Progress Exposition Program; Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

 

Paul Lawrence Dunbar. When Malindy Sings. 1903.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar. When Malindy Sings. 1903. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

 

Roger Lewis and Harry Olsen. Jazzin’ the Cotton Town Blues.

Roger Lewis and Harry Olsen. Jazzin’ the Cotton Town Blues. New York: M. Witmark & Sons, 1917. John Steiner Collection. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

 

Aunt Jemima’s Album of Secret Recipes

Aunt Jemima’s Album of Secret Recipes, 1935. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library.

 

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Sound.DS-408. Chicago: Delmark, 1966. Art Ensemble of Chicago Series, vol. 1. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago. Cover design by Sylvia Abernathy; photograph by Billy Abernathy

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Sound.DS-408. Chicago: Delmark, 1966. Art Ensemble of Chicago Series, vol. 1. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago. Cover design by Sylvia Abernathy; photograph by Billy Abernathy.

 

Mcintyre, "Humility in the Light of the Creator"

Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. Humility in the Light of the Creator. DS-419. Chicago: Delmark, 1969. Modern Jazz Series. Chicago Jazz Archive. Special Collections Research Center. The University of Chicago Library. Cover design by Zbigniew Jastrzebski.