Fall Exhibitions at the Allen
With an impressive collection permanently on view and new exhibitions opening every semester, the Allen Memorial Art Museum is considered one of the best academic museums in the country. Visit amam.oberlin.edu for details and associated events.
RELIGIOUS ART FROM ASIA
A new long-term installation of religious art from Asia is now on view at the Allen, bringing together familiar favorites with exciting new acquisitions and recently-conserved works. Current issues under discussion in the museum field are put forward. For works of Asian religious art in museums, how can we reconcile their current presentation to many visitors as “art” with their original sacred character and devotional function? How can museums recognize the injustices of past art collecting practices and strive to be a space of stewardship and dialogue today?
INSPIRATIONS: GLOBAL DIALOGUE THROUGH THE ARTS
Today we think of the globe as being connected in an unprecedented way through digital technologies and the internet, but the cultures and civilizations of the world have been linked for millennia by the original World Wide Web: trade. Artistic exchanges between cultures have long been described in terms of influence: Chinese influence on blue and white ceramics made in East or Southeast Asia, European influence on the use of linear perspective in Japanese woodblock prints, the influence of Islamic design on geometric and floral motifs in European art. But doesn’t the term influence suggest a one-way transfer? What about the makers for whom studying and picking and choosing and adapting of source material was a creative act? Perhaps the term inspiration better reflects the realities of this global dialogue.
REFIGURING MODERNISM: A FRACTURED AND DISORIENTING WORLD
This exhibition spotlights pivotal moments in figuration and abstraction in the twentieth century. Spanning Europe, the US, Peru, Mexico, and China, this presentation contextualizes canonical figures in the history of modern art alongside those often overlooked. The dark, brooding tone in some of these works stems from experiences of war, trauma, mental illness, racism, and sexism. Yet even the most fractured, disorienting compositions are punctuated with glimpses of light and resilience. The simultaneity of hope and despair, light and dark, advances and setbacks, is as central to this selection of works as it is to the sociopolitical forces that shaped modernity.
ANNA VON MERTENS / HENRIETTA LEAVITT: A LIFE SPENT LOOKING
Anna Von Mertens works at the intersection of art, history, and science to create textiles and drawings that encourage us to see important events and phenomena in a new light. Through a rigorous process that involves both digital technology and traditional hand-quilting methods, she creates works that investigate our shared history and environment, inspiring contemplation and reflection on our place in the universe.
Henrietta Leavitt (1868–1921) was an American astronomer who studied at Oberlin College from 1885 to 1888. She worked in the Harvard College Observatory as a “computer,” studying glass plate photographs of the night sky. Her discovery of thousands of variable stars, and her observations and calculations of cycles of brightness inherent to those stars, gave astronomers the first tool to measure the distance to faraway stars—showing that our solar system is not the center of the universe, that galaxies exist beyond our own, and that our universe is expanding.
This exhibition comprises the complete works that were sparked by Anna Von Mertens’ research on Leavitt, and is a celebration of her foundational contribution to modern cosmology and the path of her discovery.
EVERYTHING IS STARDUST: ARTMAKING AND THE KNOWABILITY OF THE UNIVERSE
From distant galaxies to the depths of the ocean, artistic rendering is an essential tool for imagining and ultimately knowing uncharted realms. Combining precision and intuition, observation and imagination, the works on view here make intelligible that which is too dark or distant to be seen.
Stemming from a new collaboration between Oberlin College and the United Nations, this exhibition addresses more than a century of the human impact on Earth as recorded in art. It moves from the Industrial Revolution and depictions of smog in impressionist painting, through the twentieth century and into the present—encompassing Land Art and a wide range of photography and printmaking. Themes of water, industry, landscape, sustainability, and Indigenous knowledge guide this presentation, moving away from moral judgments, and thinking imaginatively instead of defensively about changes in the environment.
VARIABLES: AN EXERCISE IN CLOSE LOOKING
This exhibition was inspired by Anna Von Mertens / Henrietta Leavitt: A Life Spent Looking. How does Leavitt’s work relate to the Japanese woodblock prints of the Edo period (1603–1868) on view in this exhibition? To make her discovery, Leavitt had to carefully compare photographic plates of the same section of deep space, identifying and charting the changes in Cepheid variable stars. This exhibition allows you to practice a similar exercise in close looking. The Allen’s renowned Mary Ainsworth collection of Japanese prints includes many duplicate prints to compare: some simply differ in color choices from one print run to another; some reflect changes by the designer to the original composition; some are compositions from one designer adapted by another, and some are twentieth-century reproductions of Edo period originals.
WHAT’S IN A SPELL? LOVE MAGIC, HEALING, AND PUNISHMENT IN THE EARLY MODERN HISPANIC WORLD
Between 1470 and 1800 in Europe and the Americas, spells were a resource for those in despair. Spellcasting was a practice that was often part magia amorosa (love magic) and part brujería (witchcraft). It offered solutions to spiritual, economic, and physical hardships. But spells also allowed people to deceive and transform others, disrupting the imposed order to achieve one’s desired goals. In response, the Spanish Inquisition (1478–1834) used surveillance and punishing mechanisms to maintain and restore the spiritual and political health of the empire. Collaboratively curated by 33 students studying witchcraft in Spain and colonial Latin America, What’s in a Spell? visually explores the subversive opportunities spells offered and the oppressive tactics used to suppress them.
SHARED ART: WENDY RED STAR
Can a single work of art build community? The annual Shared Art Program brings together all incoming Oberlin College and Conservatory students by using a single artwork as the starting point for conversations about who we are and where we have come from. The Shared Art Committee selected this work for its ability to foster conversations about familial connection and to foreground Indigenous rights.
PICTURING THE INTANGIBLE: OBERLIN LOOKS AT DAWOUD BEY’S NIGHT COMING TENDERLY, BLACK
A large, greyscale photograph by Dawoud Bey captures an opening in the woods—a glimpse of Lake Erie. Details in the photograph come into focus only with prolonged looking, as if adjusting one’s eyes to the darkness of night. In his series called Night Coming Tenderly, Black from which the photograph comes, Bey said, “I didn’t just want to document what remained of that history, but I wanted to find a way through the imagination to make it resonate through the photograph.”
THE INVISIBLE BODY
What is inside us? For many, our inner workings can be a source of fear, only thought about in the context of illness, injury, and aging. For others, the mystery of the human interior—the invisible body—has sparked a deep curiosity that has been pursued through religion, science, and art. The works on view here present different inner visions of the body.
ALLEN MEMORIAL ART MUSEUM
87 North Main Street
Oberlin Ohio 44074
Closed Sunday & Monday, open 10am-5pm Tuesday–Saturday. Always free
Religious Art from Asia, ongoing
Inspirations: Global Dialogue Through the Arts, ongoing
Refiguring Modernism: A Fractured and Disorienting World, ongoing
Anna Von Mertens / Henrietta Leavitt: A Life Spent Looking, through December 23
Everything Is Stardust: Artmaking and the Knowability of the Universe, through December 23
Anthropocene Aesthetics, through December 12
Variables: An Exercise in Close Looking, through December 12
What’s in a Spell? Love Magic, Healing, and Punishment in the Early Modern Hispanic World, through December 12
Shared Art: Wendy Red Star, through January 28, 2024
Picturing the Intangible: Oberlin Looks at Dawoud Bey’s Night Coming Tenderly, Black, August 29–January 21, 2024
The Invisible Body, August 29–January 23, 2024