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's collection.

Tang Mellon Collections Curator Rebecca McNamara
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?
Tang Curatorial Assistant Molly Channon
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.
Tang Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs and Malloy Curator Rachel Seligman '91
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.
Tang Assistant Director for Engagement Michael Janairo
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.
Skidmore Assistant Professor of Anthropology Bernardo Rios
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.
Curatorial Assistant Elena Cruzallen '17
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.
2014-15 Eleanor Linder Winter Intern Imaan Riaz ‘15
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.
2015-16 Carole Marchand Intern Evian Pan '17
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.
Assistant Professor of American Studies Amber Wiley
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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