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Tang Collective Catalog

The #TangCollectiveCatalog gathers a multiplicity of voices speaking about and responding to objects at the Tang Teaching Museum, either on view or in the collection. Think of it as a reimagining of a museum exhibition catalogue.

Below are #TangCollectiveCatalog responses related to works in the Tang collection.

E.B. Sciales ‘19, Tang Exhibitions Assistant
The brainchild of the legendary underground cartoonist R. Crumb, who has long been the subject of celebration and controversy, Zap Comix epitomized the countercultural movement of the late 1960s. The covers of Zap are branded “Adults Only,” and with good reason; depictions of sex, drug use, and violence abound. The underground comix movement arose as a response to the censors imposed on the mainstream comic book industry in the mid-1950s. Zap became especially popular in San Francisco, where it was published, and where a flourishing counterculture was taking hold. The first issue of Zap, pictured above, features Crumb’s iconic Keep on Truckin’ imagery, which soon became an icon of the hippie movement. These and more can be seen in to be with art is all we ask: Radical Print Culture from the Steven Leiber Archive, 1967–1987.
Sean Fuller, Tang Museum Store & Publications Manager
Bruce Conner (1933-2008) was an American artist celebrated for his contributions in a range of mediums. In 1967, he ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He produced “Super Conner” bumper stickers and campaign pamphlets that only quoted New Testament passages about light. His campaign speeches saw him read from lists of candies and desserts. On view in to be with art is all we ask is Supervisor, 1967, a screen-printed poster that includes an elephant with “Love” painted on its side, an image appropriated from the problematic Peter Sellers comedy The Party. Conner received over 5,000 votes.
Louise Sullivan ‘18
In Armored Landscapes, the clustered sculptures first appear both inviting and distant. Once drawn in, a passerby can see how the pieces protect and reflect the space and the viewer, creating a particular moment with each gaze. These liminal, mountainous sculptures appear to be part of two worlds, the natural and the human-made, again illustrating the way they interact with their environment. Schimert asks us to question the space and the role of the art-viewer as well as the environment we create, and have created, around us.
Rebecca McNamara, Tang Mellon Collections Curator
Gazing intently at the viewer and wearing a Western-style pinstripe suit, artist Barthélémy Toguo acts as an African leader who professes to realize the dreams of his people. But Toguo’s president is “stupid"—he realizes no goals, keeps no promises. The map behind him, from 1911, references the imperialistic foreign powers that led to many of the problems Africa faces today. The map’s lines are a direct result of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, when European heads of state gathered to carve up the African continent into profit-making colonies and agreed to how they would continue their "scramble for Africa” in forthcoming years. Conceived with no input from African people, the borderlines completely lacked relevance to existing ethnic groups or any region’s cultural or linguistic traditions. People were divided; sides were created where none before existed.
Rachel Rosenfeld ‘18, Tang 2017-18 Winter Intern
Nicole Eisenman’s “Hillbilly Moonlight Dance” sets up a curious juxtaposition between early twentieth century modernist painting and American Atomic Age animation. Eisenman references “La Danse" by Henri Matisse at the top of the canvas, with a ring of dancers around a bound figure. The tone of this piece is consistent with Eisenman’s on-brand sinister humor: a tall flame in the foreground illuminates the group of captors, creating the illusion of the bound figure being burned at the stake. Eisenman commands direction of sight by aligning her figures, from the top down, to the color spectrum – working from the blood-orange of the dancers, to an olive-green hill, to the pthalo blue Hillbillies. The titular hillbillies in the forefront appear to be a cross between Picasso’s blue period figures (the one on the far right specifically reminiscent of "The Old Guitarist”) and Hanna-Barbera’s Yogi the Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and other early television anthropomorphs.
Louise Sullivan ‘18
Chained to each other, the pair of shoes in Blake’s Lap Dog interrogates identity and the body in one glance. These restrictive shoes ask us to question the ways in which society has made it impossible for certain people to walk, to move freely in their daily life. A familiar item transformed into a blunt piece, Lap Dog draws to mind the phrase about putting oneself into someone else’s shoes and places it into a different, more honest light.
Sarah Miller, Former Tang Curatorial Assistant
I was excited to show Professor Mary Crone Odekon the woodburytype of the Plato lunar impact crater by James Nasmyth from 1874. This picture is a close up of a plaster recreation of the moon. It was part of a larger project by Nasmyth to explain the pockmarked and ridged geology of the moon – he argued that it was because the moon was shrinking; even photographing his own wrinkled hand and a shriveled apple to prove the point. Professor Crone Odekon explained that the moon’s topology is used by geologists because it shows what the Earth would look like if it wasn’t covered in trees, lakes, people, cities, etc. This image raises the issue of veracity in scientific research. Although it was a widely popular book, the writers’ statements are incorrect the image is not a photograph of the moon but a photograph of a handmade replica.
Geoffrey Greene ‘18, Tang 2017-18 Meg Reitman Jacobs Intern and Student Advisory Council member
Whiting Tennis’ Wilderness Painting is an erratic and enveloping collage that confronts viewers with the destructive relationship between humans and natural world. Viewing the work from bottom to top, one can see these pieces of man-made creations gradually disintegrate into chaotic wilderness. The large scale of the collage presents an overwhelming feeling that our impact on the natural world is fleeting. Tennis provides a sense of irony to this scene stating, “humans need to organize and clean and be dry and well-fed, and nature just comes down and goes ‘Awchhh.’”
Kat Berg ‘18, Tang Exhibitions Assistant and Student Advisory Council member
When you enter the Tang from the north entrance, you are initially greeted by Dorothy Dehner’s sculpture Fist. Dehner created the work out of steel that had a rusted appearance, which she painted over to create a dichotomy of strength and fragility. Painting over the corroded steel draws a comparison to the human condition, in which people project and perceive positivity that does not exist internally. Dehner’s Fist confronts the viewer, asking them to “enter” the sculpture and allow the eye to travel up and down along straight lines and flat planes.
Nell Mittelstead ‘18, Tang K-12 Education Assistant and Tang Guide
You can almost see the ghost in Sally Mann’s Untitled (Overview) from the series Remembered Light. The photograph of Cy Twombly’s studio reveals the space transformed, once active with creation, now an archeological site haunted with the relationship of Mann and her now deceased mentor. The crowded studio, every surface stacked high with sculptures and materials, holds the two unseen figures together in the fragile light, their relationship now a memory.
Laura Mintz ‘12
The silhouettes constructed by Kunié Sugiura are portraits that nevertheless negate basic markers of identity. By removing facial features she leaves viewers without common telltale details, and she closely controls the visual clues that remain. Sugiura maintains authority over her subjects by carefully choosing how to visually define them, often using their creations to reveal their identity.
Sam Grant ‘18
“It’s the mark of the hand that placed them there and is simultaneously eroding them away,” says artist Michael Joo. Joo presents us with a tricky scenario: The more often these delicate African crane legs (made of graphite and urethane) are displayed, the more they erode. That being said, the less they’re displayed, the fewer people are exposed to the lessons Joo is trying to spread. We’ve been having some challenging and imperative conversations about race and identity in our Black Theater class at Skidmore, but I think the same sentiment holds. While these discussions can easily fall apart at the seams, what’s more important is the fact that we’re being exposed to them and all of the teachings that they carry.
Silas Shah ‘20
Oscar Wilde’s character Dorian Gray deals with both sides of “physical youth and beauty and inner moral corruption.” Gray, portrayed here by the artist, a Nigerian-Englishman, looks into the mirror without a smile and without a frown; he looks strong and stern. However, he is crazed and lost on the inside. Like Gray, I have dealt with similar problems regarding my race. As an Indian-American, I wear Rakhis on my wrist and Sperrys on my feet. When people ask if my white mom is “actually?!” my mom, I go to the mirror just like Gray. I stand looking at my brown skin and black hair wondering why I have to deal with these questions because these questions hurt. This piece in the Other Side: Art, Object, Self at the Tang Museum has allowed me to feel comfortable expressing my qualms and my appreciation for my intersectionality. Sometimes the questions about my mom or the mockery of my dad can get to me in ways that nothing else can. Despite this, I’ll keep wearing my Sperrys and rocking my Rakhis because that’s who I am, and I’m proud of it.
Laila Morgan ‘18, Tang 2016-17 Marchand Intern
“To which it has always remained attached by an umbilical cord of gold” ends the Clement Greenberg quote that Andrea Bowers’ explores in her piece titled Bellybutton Candydish. The jellybean sitting in the center of her silver-plated, hyper-realistic cast of her own bellybutton begs to be picked up, clawed out with a finger, like a kid in a candy shop. The immediacy of that visceral response makes my own bellybutton feel vulnerable.
Dayna Joseph ‘19, Tang 2017-18 Marchand Intern
Aurie Ramirez, a Filipino artist now based in Oakland, CA, is heavily influenced by her love of the rock band KISS and the 1960s TV series The Addams Family. Combining the subtlety of watercolor with the fierceness of punk rock, Ramirez dissects and reconstructs these pop culture icons using psychedelic, sexual imagery. Here, an androgynous, KISS-inspired character is paired with an abstracted female figure. The figure’s Adam’s apple echoes the curves of the figure’s breasts. The visual repetition of peach skin, outlined in neon pink marker, reminds the viewer of the similarities between the two often-polarized sexes.
Rebecca McNamara, Tang Mellon Collections Curator
About 230 years ago, on September 17, 1787, the US Constitution was signed. In Constitution on Tour, the 1991 artwork by Mel Ziegler and Kate Ericson, the artists reconstructed our nation’s arguably most vital document by sandblasting and painting every word onto a slab of marble. They then destroyed it, turning it into hundreds of fragments, which they placed in Union Pacific model trains. You can distinguish a few letters here, a word there, maybe even a phrase. In the days before Constitution Day, looking at this artwork, I wonder, how many of us—we the people, who are responsible for reading, understanding, and upholding (or opposing) these words—know and truly grasp them in their entirety?
Molly Channon, Tang Curatorial Assistant
It is dark and silent inside the Tang’s elevator. My ride is one floor down. The doors close. A raspy whisper breaks the silence, “The system is broken.” It repeats the phrase as the elevator starts moving. A small lightbulb hanging from the ceiling flickers in tandem with the voice, as it ebbs and flows in volume and intensity. I feel claustrophobic. The descent is sluggish. Is the disembodied voice part of a more complex mechanism? Can it sense my presence? The elevator doors open on the first floor. I breathe a sigh of relief and laugh as I exit.
Jenna Postler ‘13
Born and raised in Chicago, Ed Paschke was a formative member of the city’s Imagist group in the 1960s. Imagists used the term to distance themselves from the New York and LA art scenes, using bright colors to distort popular images and figures, drawing inspiration from Surrealism and fantasy.
In his late-1980s works, Paschke created an underpainting in black and white and then added colored glazes, a process he described as paralleling “the black and white to color progression in the historical development of printing, film and T.V. images.” Part of this series, Paschke’s Makeup features a figure with a mask and tattoos, attributes of marginal American life that fascinated him throughout his career.
Rachel Seligman ‘91, Tang Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs and Malloy Curator
For “Tree,” Joel Fisher photographed his 1987 sculpture “Study for a Tree,” enlarged the image until it became pixelated, and re-created the new image with over four hundred square plates of color aquatint. He matched the plates to each pixel, locking the organic form into a grid-based structure, which calls to mind digital media. Fascinated with replication, perception, and translation, Fisher invites viewers to discover for themselves the existence (or not?) of an underlying pattern.
Michael Janairo, Tang Assistant Director for Engagement
At first glance, the sculpture appears rigid. It’s all about steel and straight lines—two Ls affixed to a post—the constructed world. Then a breeze picks up, and the Ls move. They sway and swing. They never touch. Is the movement mechanical? The timing of the moves, though, doesn’t repeat; instead, it is determined by the conditions of this moment—the wind, weather, and gravity. The sculpture is shaped just as much by the artist as it is by nature.
Bernardo Rios, Skidmore Assistant Professor of Anthropology
There were several Corita Kent serigraph prints on the table in the print room, and with interest and intrigue I asked: ‘What are those?’ It was at that moment I was introduced to Sister Corita Kent, I had never heard of her before that moment, but I felt like I knew her work. They felt familiar. Particularly, it was the vibrancy of the colors used in the poster, for the saturated blue, yellow, and red lured my undeniable attention. Then, the words on the poster provoked emotion; I felt issues of equality and social justice, so I was curious about her history. That moment led me to a research project with the Corita Kent collection.
Elena Cruzallen ‘17, Tang Curatorial Assistant
Lamar Peterson’s graphic, colorful style is often set ironically against the deeper meaning imbued in his work. In his painting, The Angel, there are opposing images: sunset colored clouds on a daytime blue sky, and superficial, bubble like hearts next to spilled blood. The bubble hearts shower the central figure as if in a dream world; he is being showered by love. However, if that is the case, why are there spots of blood? Is it meant to represent the pain that often accompanies love? What lies behind the figure’s perfect smile? Why is he alone? Do the flamingos represent freedom and paradise, or plastic and artificiality? Peterson also adds images of sea turtles, icons of longevity and perhaps signifying how, even in paradise, one’s journey can be slow and long.
Lisa Moran ’17
In my own printmaking practice, I’ve always found it hard to know how to make text something integral to an image rather than decorative. Kent exemplifies how to make the text the image itself, while carrying your eye down playful avenues of different shapes and meanings. This piece lets us define different meanings in the gaps of information provided with these powerful words, and almost 50 years later it’s still eerily poignant, although maybe now for different reasons.
Imaan Riaz ‘15, Tang 2014-15 Winter Intern
Jane Masters employs traditional and experimental drawing techniques to reclaim and legitimize overlooked women’s craft practices as subversive and political tools. Get A Life is part of her Playing With Fire series in which she uses a 19th-century scratchboard technique to scorch paper with hand-forged irons. Combining oral imagery, satirical text, and labor-intensive practices, Masters exposes and pokes fun at prescribed notions of femininity within the decorative arts.
Hannah Traore ‘17
South Sudanese artist and writer Atong Atem explores postcolonial identities in the African diaspora. She is interested in using her photography to illuminate how Africans construct and reclaim identities for themselves in contemporary society. Atem named Malick Sidibé as one of her inspirations and has described her work as similar to his, being about “colour and texture and a kind of anti-minimalist approach to subjects and sets.” In this self-portrait, the artist has chosen to mask most of her face, making it less about her and more about the idea that black women are the fruit of the earth—they are born from the earth and are strong enough to sustain their communities.
Evian Pan ‘17, Tang 2015-16 Marchand Intern
Reichek’s Navaho, from the series Native Intelligence, consists of a found photo that she enlarged to life size and a knitting which mimics the print. The juxtaposition begs the question; which medium is more real? One may believe in the documentary essence of photography, but the knitted yarn exposes the body in space and declares its presence, making the photo appear distant and alienated. Reichek weaves the two versions of reality into this composite, simultaneously unveiling several contradictions, such as artistic invention and ethnographic representation, male and female, as well as Western and non-Western.
Amber Wiley, Skidmore Assistant Professor of American Studies
This image encapsulates part of the African-American experience—trying to understand your place within the larger sociocultural framework of revered institutions built on an imperial and colonial past. Carrie Mae Weems has placed herself within the context of this piece as a critique. I appreciate Weems for giving us that space. It lets me know that I’m not alone in this kind of struggle. It’s okay to feel distance from that institution, and to not necessarily feel like this full history is for you or speaking to you in a direct way, and it’s okay to question the canon.
Hannah Traore ‘17
The subjects in Hassan Hajjaj’s portraits are his friends, musicians, artists, and people on the streets of Marrakesh. They are typically photographed in outfits created by the artist, who is also a fashion designer. Influenced by the studio photography of Malick Sidibé, Hajjaj often uses 3-D objects from consumer culture in his frames. For Hajjaj, these objects evoke a sense of nostalgia for North Africa, and he has said that he is ‘trying to create something which has as much of [my] identity as possible.'
Caroline Herman ‘17
When I first viewed Zanele Muholi’s HeVi, Oslo I was struck by the intensity of the photograph. It was hard to not lock eyes with Muholi in her self-portrait. This portrait comes from a series of self-portraits titled, Somnyama Ngonyama which translates to hail the dark lioness. In them, Muholi exemplifies different “characters,“ ranging from more natural portraits to the more stylized ones. She intends for the high contrast to enable the face to become a focal point for the viewer. In this photograph, there are references to a lioness. Her hair makes references to a lion’s mane. Her hair perfectly frames her face, which hosts a fierce, confrontational gaze, again reminiscent of a lioness.
Emily Hench ‘17
I have encountered Politeness Counts many times on walks through campus. It is easy to become desensitized to sights that are part of an everyday routine, but Seliger’s piece still stands out to me each time I see it. His enlarged reinterpretation of an everyday object causes me to think about the bags we amass from various purchases. Flimsy supermarket and takeout bags covered with phrase ‘thank you’ come to mind. This rather permanent recreation of a common item draws attention to the usage and value of those two words.
Daniel Kapp ‘17
Madame Mama Bush makes me feel calm. Perhaps it is the familiarity and lived-ness of the mise-en-scène set or perhaps it is the blissful look on Mama Bush’s face. Either way, I cannot seem to detach myself from the sense of comfort I feel in this photograph. Despite partial nudity and lingerie, Mama Bush’s body does not feel overtly sexualized. Instead it feels maternal and warm and loving.
Claire Cook ‘17
Christopher Wool’s Untitled 1998 painting is both tucked away in collections and on display. Its smeared and drippy composition might be overlooked until its value is realized. Wool’s work is subversive in bringing graffiti, a traditionally illicit practice of vandalism, into the museum. He investigates and pushes the boundaries of what abstract art can be.
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