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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 we’ve collected in response to If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day: Collections of Claude Simard.

Serena Hildebrandt ‘20, Tang Exhibitions Assistant, Student Advisory Council member, and Tang Guide
Kerry James Marshall’s If I Had a Possession Over Judgement Day appears celebratory. The bright colors, dancing, and music imply gaiety; however, the forced expression, nakedness, and comical depiction of an African American man suggest a deeper meaning. Marshall reflects on stereotypical depictions of black men by using an exaggerated and comically flat cartoonish figure. The work recalls other contemporary artists, such as Kara Walker, who reclaim and comment on the impact and influence of racial parodies.
Sophie Heath ‘18, Tang Curatorial and Collections Assistant
One of the first pieces that drew my attention in the Collections of Claude Simard exhibition was Nancy Spero’s Artemisia II. As a Classics major, I immediately recognized the notorious “Dildo Dancer,” an image that harkens back to female ecstasy and homoerotic relationships in ancient Greece, like Sappho and her flirtatious attitude toward women in the 6th century BCE. For me, the dancer represents female empowerment and sexual freedom. This feminist imagery, which permeates the entire painting, is supported by the title, a reference to Artemisia I of Caria, a Greek female warrior queen who was most notable for her participation in the Battle of Samos in 480 BCE. Spero has successfully used ancient Greek icons to present modern feminist ideas.
Bryan McQuade ‘18
The geometric patterns are contrasting but the photo isn’t staged to force a sense of order. There is equal focus on the form of the woman as well as the patterns. The organic shapes on the frame provide even more motion and contrast. I enjoy how each element comes together to form a whole.
Bet LaRue, Tang Gallery Monitor
Western Currents evokes questions, more questions than answers. What is the source of the light in the foreground? Is it the moon or is it supernatural? What has happened and what is happening to the figures—did they jump into the water or were they thrown overboard? What are the shafts of light coming at them from the boat? Are they meant to wound or kill the figures in the water, or to connect?
I have heard visitors explain this work as depicting the current immigration crisis in the Mediterranean. There are certainly parallels. Unlike the slaves, the immigrants are choosing to get into the boats; however, because of the dangerous situations in their homelands, they likely feel they have no choice. The voyages they take are dangerous; the boats are overcrowded; many perish in the water.
Dayna Joseph ‘19, Tang Student Advisory Council Member
Malick Sidibé’s expertly placed lens photographed inspirational images of Bamako’s youth scene during Mali’s transition toward independence. Unlike with many of Sidibé’s older subjects, this image does not result from deliberate posing, but from the child’s authenticity. Especially in these portraits, Sidibé captures the unbridled naiveté of children who do not yet know life’s challenges; children who therefore live happily, poised for achievement. In this photo exists the uninhibited potential to capitalize on all that post-colonial Mali and the world has to offer.
Caroline Declercq-Blake, Tang Museum Educator
I invite the children to sit around Nick Cave’s Soundsuit and the curiosity is instant. “This man looks like he likes to travel around the world because of all the globes floating around him,” says a little boy. “He collects toys, too, because he wants to stay a little longer in the children’s world,” says a little girl. Someone asked me if at night he walks around and remembers all the places and people he met in his journey as a collector. The figure stands on a magic egg. Inside there is more treasure. And just like that, we are creating a wonderful world together.
Rachel Rosenfeld ‘18, Tang Education Assistant for College & Public Programs
The gashed piece with red, wrinkled folds hangs adjacent to a portrait of an austere nun. The Old Testament declares the pain of childbirth a punishment, and the necessity of giving birth absolute. The vagina has been referred to as a “wound,” assigning violence as soon as a body forms prenatally: to have a vagina is not an act of violence, but invites one. Where the title references Lucio Fontana’s destruction of his canvases, the grouping in Wayne’s piece may indicate strength in numbers. The variety in sizes and shapes of the labia may convey a positive acknowledgment of diverse perspectives to bolster the efforts of a reactionary cause.
Museum visitor Jeffrey Adler
Drawing the window shades to shut out the outside world.

Being drawn in to the colors of the imagination.

Light peeking out from behind the shades as a reminder of the outside world.
Sanjana Gothi ‘17, Tang Museum Winter Intern 2016-17
Poor little fish! They’re swimming toward the crocodile, unaware they’re about to be eaten. This scene, and the concept of a flag-within-a-flag, sparked my curiosity. I turned to the internet. The Smithsonian webpage said this flag was designed by an Asafo or local militia that maintains order in Ghanaian Fante communities. The upper left-hand flag is particular to the Asafo, while the larger pink fabric depicts the proverb: “Fish grow fat for the benefit of the crocodile.” Though my first reaction was pity, the proverb convinced me to consider the practical inevitabilities of the circle of life.
Melissa Schlobohm ‘12
As I approached this collection of drawings, what struck me first was the style of the subject matter. Their graphic quality and their placement reminded me of traditional tattoos or how tattoos are displayed in shops. As I got closer the images appeared less constricted to stylization and more free or “childlike.” Each snake has its own character—it’s own form and movement—that contributes to the collection of drawings as a whole.
Elena Cruzallen ‘17, Tang Curatorial Assistant
Within a display of Bura Funerary urns, an ambiguous, white column towers in the middle. Perhaps it is meant to symbolize the life force that once was, the life that, upon its expiration, is now found in the urns. Or, one could say that the sculpture gives the impression of something being propelled upwards with water, much like a fountain. In this way, “Second Ave, No. 5” by Andrew Lord, evokes movement, and yet it is fixed. Atop the sculpture are wing-like formations. Perhaps it is a bird, freed from purgatory, being thrust into immortal life. The piece’s ambiguity is what appealed to me; it is art as poetry.
Merritt Rosen ‘17, Tang Curatorial Assistant and Education Assistant for College and Public Programs
I was initially drawn to this collection of photographs because of the personality and uniqueness of the subjects. This collection portrays people of all ages posing in a variety of settings. Some of the subjects look posed against the stark background of a photography studio while others appear to be caught candidly sitting on the hood of a car. The colorful and decorative frames contrasting the black and white of the photographs work to enhance the individuality of the subjects. Although the collection consists of 53 photographs, each subject is bursting with individuality.
Ginger Ertz, Tang Museum Educator for K-12 and Community Programs
A dark stormy sea, yet light emanates from the sky. Exaggerated complimentary cool and warm colors. Luscious painted surface juxtaposed with glossy collaged paper. Figures on board, and more in the waves. Are they swimming to freedom? Escaping the horrors of the boat? Or being rescued back into the vessel? Bailey’s powerful image is full of mysterious dichotomies, raising more questions than answers. What do you think is going on in this picture?
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.”
Nola Donkin ‘18
When I saw the objects within the cabinet I was initially confused by their randomness but over time, I began to see how the funny collection was precious to David Ireland. This context made me reconsider their everydayness, but the cabinet also made me realize the careful way in which they are displayed. I now see them as a reflection of the whimsicality that Ireland embodies and incorporates into his work. How does the cabinet change our perception of what’s inside? Does the cabinet create a mini museum of the collection?
Madeleine Welsch ’17, Tang Design and Digital Content Assistant
I first experienced one of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits at the Tang in 2015, the year I began working at the museum. “Affinity Atlas” featured Cave’s early sculptural manipulation of twigs. The suit in Claude Simard’s collection is an explosion of crocheted pattern, globes, and color. Cave’s very first #Soundsuit, created in 1992, was a reaction to the beating of Rodney King and the L.A. riots. From twigs to toys, Cave’s use of everyday objects and references to social and material culture have caught my attention. Having recently graduated, I feel very fortunate to have interacted with his work in two separate Tang exhibitions.
Dr. Silvia Forni, Curator of Anthropology in the Department of World Cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto)
Flags are usually messages of pride and boastfulness, whereby one company is communicating to the public, to other companies, to their enemies, to bystanders, one way or another in which they consider themselves to be superior or to be important. This is a very common motif on Asafo flags. It is a form of metaphysical boastfulness that companies would display to say that they are better than or superior to other companies because of their mystical abilities. This motif is usually read as, “We control the cock and the clock bird,” the latter referring to an indigenous cuckoo found in the forest. These are two birds that sing at different times of the day. The underlying meaning of this flag is, “We are able to control time, and we’re able to control when things happen.”
Ellie Rochman ‘17, Tang Student Advisory Council Member
Brad Kahlhamer’s works document the artist’s journey on discovering identity. Adopted at birth and raised by two German-American parents, Kahlhamer struggled with getting in touch with his Native American roots as a child and young adult. Now, the artist uses art as a medium to channel his search for identity, creating what he calls a “third place” in which Kahlhamer can grow as a complex and ever-evolving human, embracing his mixed heritage.
M. Coletta ‘17
With the instantaneous and shocking recognition of the Nike “swooshes” depicted on the man’s bare chest, Thomas questions the identity of black men in advertisements throughout history. With the clever duality of the term “branded,” the photograph forces viewers to reevaluate their personal stereotypes and assumptions. The implications surrounding race in advertisements astounds and fascinates Thomas. The next time you view an advertisement, ignore the written or spoken words. What are the images truly communicating?
Jessica Rebarber ‘17
This leaning painting encompasses the creativity of Phil Frost. The top white layer of correction fluid that confidently covers the bottom layers of his composition fascinates me. I wonder if the tired, elongated faces are self-portraits, or reflections of his inner self. The worn-out quality of the canvas complements the organic, natural quality of each of his brush strokes, which he paints freehand, without the use of a stencil.
Jack Solasz ‘17
Titus Kaphar plays with the idea of historical paintings and makes them contemporary. By cutting, slicing, and adding on to his work, he contradicts the traditional flatness of the medium. In some of his paintings, sections are surgically cut out and replaced elsewhere. For this piece, a more aggressive approach was taken. This results in a physical and visceral interaction with the work.
Julia Poorvu ‘19, Tang Teaching Museum K-12 Education Assistant
Traditionally, Phulkari Textiles were labeled “women’s work.” That doesn’t mean they’re merely delicate and pretty. Even though Bagh Textiles like this one were used as clothing or wedding presents, the geometric patterns and bright gold color argue for a kind of femininity that is strong, bold, and durable. Its large scale allows the eye to be drawn to the pattern’s sharp angles, and the tight stitches and sheen add a tough steely element. That’s the femininity I see in this textile.
Jonah Jablons ‘17, Tang Teaching Museum Collections Assistant
When I saw the Asafo flags in person, I was struck by their beauty. In a contemporary art museum it is rare to see something so worn and used. The flags were not made for a museum; they were made for people. In their holes there is history and a sense of purpose. In Western art seldom are works so complex in visual language and technique waved in the air and used as an object. In my eyes their beauty lies in their freedom.
Rachel Seligman ‘91, Tang Teaching Museum Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs
In Kerry James Marshall’s drawing, a naked man spins hula hoops and juggles while singing If I had possession over judgement day, the first line of a song by the blues great Robert Johnson. While the song is about the loss of his woman to another man, and how she and her new man would get no mercy from him on judgement day, Marshall’s drawing suggests much more. What might it mean for the man in this drawing to control judgement day? Is he keeping all those balls and hoops up for fun or out of necessity? What would it mean for anybody to assume, in essence, the role of god?
May Cohan ‘17, Tang Teaching Museum Exhibitions Assistant
While standing in front of Jackie Nickerson’s Sr. Irene, I felt a wave of discomfort and curiosity wash over my body. The life-size, high-resolution portrait renders Sr. Irene’s presence tangible. Her judgmental stare feels as though she’s observing me as much as I’m studying her. My eyes wandered around the frame, avoiding her direct gaze. I thought it would be disrespectful, and Sr. Irene would punish me. The contrast between her black habit and the stark white background caused the figure to glow, increasing her all-powerful demeanor. Sr. Irene commanded attention and respect, and caused me to question my own authority.
Julia Poorvu ‘19, Tang Teaching Museum K-12 Education Assistant
Tim Rollins and K.O.S’s Study for Amerika - A Refuge, 1992, exemplifies his work as a role model for today’s teachers. He took what was present in his students and let it grow. Through Kafka’s Amerika, his students applied his teachings to their own lives to make the work. Rollins’s process recalls something I learned in Skidmore College Professor Hope Casto’s class Multicultural Education. To bridge cultural divides and to bring teachers and students closer together, teachers can bring in their own lives as a prompt for students to share something about themselves as well. That’s what I see in Study for Amerika.
Annelise Kelly, Tang Teaching Museum Online Content Assistant
I work everyday with digital reproductions of art, and what I first noticed about the image of this Bagh Textile was the graphic pattern and how it looked so contemporary. Today, I finally saw it in the gallery. I was immediately struck by its size and radiance: each tiny silk stitch works together to form a magical—more than 7-foot tall—whole. It reminds me that viewing art in person is invaluable.
Michael Janairo, Tang Teaching Museum Assistant Director for Engagement
This Nick Cave Soundsuit, unlike others, isn’t meant to be embodied. So if it isn’t for the body, then is it for the mind? Each globe floats around the figure like thought bubbles that are worlds unto themselves; however, the rich complexities of ideas are mixed with a cacophony of childhood bric-a-brac: a nostalgia of toys precariously balanced on a before-the-fall Humpty Dumpty. Cave here plays with the Romantic period notion of the child and allows us to think of our ideas — no matter how serious or on the edge — as being full of liveliness, joy, and humor.
Sanjana Gothi ‘17, Tang Teaching Museum Winter Intern 2016-17
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s dark pen, ink and marker portraits feature vivid, neon spots of pigment. They remind me of disco lights, and instantly drew me in. I did a little digging, and discovered that Odutola always tints her figures with black, even when she’s not depicting black people. She is challenging the connotations of the color black as undesirable and evil; instead, she posits black as valuable and positive. She said in a recent Forbes interview, “Black can be a warm, enveloping place to be.”
Laila Morgan ‘18, Tang Teaching Museum Marchand Intern 2016-17
I once held Bailey’s Western Currents in the palm of my hand, blurry, pixelated, a loop of linty scotch tape on the back. The miniature model of the painting – sized for the miniature model of the Malloy Wing – did not even begin to do Bailey’s piece justice. I was frozen when I saw it in person, in awe of the enormous scale, the massive presence. One looks eye to eye with the figures on the boat, confronted by the rough water, the fallen figures, and the reference to slavery’s middle passage.
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