ATHENS, Ohio -- A new exhibition at the Kennedy Museum of Art literally invites you to "step into the picture" and become a part of art. "From the Background to the Foreground: The Photo Backdrop and Cultural Expression" is an intriguing new exhibition that will be on display through Aug. 3.
The exhibition includes approximately 20 photography backdrops from Asia, Africa and the Americas. From hand-painted quilted pieces to extravagant studio objects, the exhibition also includes hundreds of 19th and 20th century photographs, contemporary and folk art, various objects and props, interactive installations, audio and video recordings and texts. A fully illustrated catalog published as a special issue of the internationally respected journal Afterimage accompanies the exhibition.
Backdrops include a man in the moon photo prop, where you can sit down and take a classic turn-of-the-century shot; fascinating and vividly colored Central American scenes resplendent with airplanes, fast cars and angels; pastoral scenes from China; and mosques and highly adorned interiors from India, to name just a few.
The Kennedy Museum will be your last chance to see this internationally acclaimed exhibition that art historian and theorist Geoffrey Batchen calls "pioneering."
Curated by James B. Wyman, director of the Kennedy Museum of Art, the exhibition is about to conclude its 10-venue tour, which originated at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, California Museum of Photography, Washington State University Museum of Art, Cranbrook Academy of Art and the California Museum of Science and Industry.
"The photo backdrop has been a dominant illusory and expressive device since the invention and dissemination of photography in the 19th century," said Wyman. "However the relationship between the backdrop and photography itself had not been examined closely. 'From the Background to the Foreground' is the first major exhibition and publication to consider this world-wide phenomenon and its effects on understandings of photographic and cultural representation as well as its influences on and immersion in contemporary art practice."
Many of the backdrops in the exhibition depict historic figures, events and places, and seem to be based on the Western notions of fidelity to time and space. In other backdrops, invented color, anachronistic references and fantastic scenes are represented along with mythical figures and events to evoke and preserve important cultural beliefs.
Also included are more than 400 photographs, various objects, interactive installations, audio, video and texts. Historical and contemporary work by hundreds of image makers, scholars and writers including artists, itinerant photographers, studio photographers, amateur picture makers, anthropologists, curators and historians is organized to raise questions about the creation, use and interpretation of photography's most pervasive form-the human portrait.
Museum visitors are encouraged to bring their own cameras, to make their own pictures, to participate in the creation of new images-either for themselves or to be displayed in the exhibition!
Catalog essayists are Arjun Appadurai, the Samuel N. Harper Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Director of the Globalization Project at the University of Chicago; Lucy Lippard, writer and activist; and Avon Neal, writer and folk art collector. Also included are texts and personal narratives by Sonia Iglesias y Cabrera and Maria del Carmen Leon, Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, Mexico City; Vasant Nayak, photographer, historian and project consultant; Rudolph Seales, itinerant photographer and backdrop artist; Vera Viditz-Ward, photographer; Wong Wo Bik, lender and project consultant; and Wyman.
The Athens area appearance of "From the Background to the Foreground" is made possible by a special collaboration between the Kennedy Museum of Art and the Visual Studies Workshop. The exhibition is made possible with generous support from Polaroid Corporation and with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
A Kennedy Museum exclusive "Members Only" Director's Gallery talk will be held at the Museum on May 30 from 5 to 6 p.m. followed by a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. For Museum membership information call (740) 593-1304.
Don't miss the Museum's "Graduation Photo Days" on June 13, 14 and 15. Bring your new graduate and a camera for a special opportunity to take your own portraits with an international backdrop. Check our Web site for special hours www.ohiou.edu/museum.
The Kennedy Museum of Art is located in historic Lin Hall at The Ridges on the Ohio University campus. The Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m.; Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Pre-arranged guided tours are available to community and school groups with advance notice. For information or to book tours call (740) 593-1304.