Artists Who Redefine Themselves in Cranbrook Art Museum Show

July 16, 2020

In recent times, various art museums tend to reinvent themselves by presenting a new model of presentation and interpretation of the works found in their collection. However, aside from the interventions taken upon individual artists and their practices, a much bigger challenge is to take into consideration the collection as a whole, to dismantle it and locate the dominant themes.

To do so, The Cranbrook Art Museum opened the new exhibition titled Shapeshifters: Transformations in Contemporary Art consisting of more than seventy works mainly by female, Black and queer artists that are carefully selected from the museum’s ninety-three years old permanent collection.

Joan Mitchell - Preface for Chris,1973. Gift of Rose M. Shuey, from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York, New York

Reinterpreting The Collection

The exhibition brings a dense narrative concerning the artists' ability to redefine their practice by transgressing their chosen medium and reflecting the social, political, and other circumstances.

Laura Mott, the Senior Curator of Contemporary Art and Design, emphasized briefly the museum’s agenda with the Shapeshifters:

At the heart of this exhibition are the themes of transformation and change, which is a story that courses through the history of contemporary art in different ways. Many of the artists in this exhibition deal with societal history and constructs in their own unique way, including the urgency of the here and now. Artists are also our teachers and chroniclers of contemporary life, and it is necessary that the majority of artists exhibited here are women, LGBTQ+, and people of color. In Shapeshifters, there are artworks that induce meditation, criticality, pleasure, and pain—we find the spectrum of human experience in their ingenuity. 

The visitors will have a unique chance to dive into works by artists such as Agnes Martin, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jo Baer, Romare Bearden, McArthur Binion, Susan Goethel Campbell, Anthony Caro, Nick Cave, Beverly Fishman, Kottie Gaydos, Marilyn Minter, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg, Ato Ribeiro, Julian Stanczak, Kara Walker, and others.

Frank Stella - Takht-i-Sulayman Variation I (from the Protractor Series), 1969. Gift of Rose M. Shuey, from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey. © 2020 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, New York. Photography by R. H. Hensleigh

The Exhibition Segments

The museum’s upper galleries host each a thematic section starting with Hard Edge/Blurred Lines that takes into consideration the mechanism of abstraction as an aesthetic strategy.

The following one called Exploding the Frame features the works that are the result of unconventional strategies of the photographic process, while the third one Sea Change underlines the notion of transformation in the contemporary moment and the psychological effects that arise from this process.

The last section called Nick Cave’s Up Right: Detroit features a short film made during the artist’s solo exhibition and performance series Nick Cave: Here Hear in 2015 that is focused on the participants from the Ruth Ellis Center, a center for LGBTQ+ youth, and the Mosaic Youth Theatre, both Detroit based.

Left: Marilyn Minter - Green Pink Caviar, 2009. Gift of the Artist and Salon 94, New York / Right: Nick Cave - TM 13 (Inspired by Trayvon Martin), 2015. Photo Credit: Credit: Sam Deitch/BFA.com.

Shapeshifters at The Cranbrook Art Museum

The museum was opened recently and due to the safety measures, new operating days and hours are announced along with the requirement of pre-registration for all visitors.

Shapeshifters: Transformations in Contemporary Art will be on display at The Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, from 22 July 2020 while the closing date remains open until announced accordingly.

Featured image: Kara Walker - Keys to the Coop, 1997. © Kara Walker. Photograph by R. H.Hensleigh and Tim Thayer. All images courtesy The Cranbrook Art Museum.

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