The Williams College Museum of Art is a vibrant center for the arts at Williams that embodies the potential for the liberal arts to catalyze our ability to think creatively and critically. It is a vital hub for deep student learning and participation; for taking risks and testing creative, future forms of scholarship and teaching; and for boldly affirming the relevance of the history of art and the arts broadly. Partnering closely with art department faculty and others, we aim not just to sustain but to revitalize the college’s world class legacy in the visual arts for generations to come.
On view in fall 2019:
Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.
Sept. 6–Dec. 9, 2019
Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. explores the intersections among a network of more than 50 artists. This exhibition is the first of its kind to excavate histories of experimental art practice, collaboration, and exchange by a group of Los Angeles-based queer Chicanx artists between the late 1960s and early 1990s. It presents painting, performance ephemera, print material, video, music, fashion, and photography in the context of significant artistic and cultural movements, including mail art; the rise of Chicanx, LGBTQ, and feminist print media; the formation of alternative spaces; fashion culture; punk music and performance; and artistic responses to the AIDS crisis.
SHIFT: New Interpretations of American and European Art
Opening Sept. 6, 2019
WCMA’s collection of American and European art offers students and the Berkshire community access to key works of art. And yet, collections like ours that have been shaped by the Western canon undeniably present an incomplete history of artistic achievement that often obscures the contributions of women, queer folk, persons of color, artistic collectives, and makers we cannot identify. With this legacy in mind, this exhibition probes the question: How do we engage and critique historic collections of art in ways that respond to the questions and values of today? Presenting work from three centuries of artists who have borrowed from other cultures or found inspiration from community in places other than where they were born, this installation highlights WCMA’s shift toward multiple material and intercultural interpretations of works in our collection.
The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room Z, Northwest Palace of Nimrud)
Sept. 27, 2019–April 19, 2020
WCMA’s 1935 Gallery is transformed into the precise architectural layout of Room Z of King Ashurnasirpal II’s 9th century BCE palace, appearing as it stood since its 1854 excavation by British archaeologists until its destruction by ISIS in 2015. Working with a team of assistants, artist Michael Rakowitz reconstructed in 1:1 scale seven of the 13 monumental limestone reliefs that once lined the palace walls using contemporary Middle Eastern newspapers and packaging from northern Iraqi foods. The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room Z, Northwest Palace of Nimrud) engages with the college’s complicated history of collecting, including a Williams alumnus’ acquisition of the two Assyrian reliefs now in the museum’s collection, posing urgent questions about where and to whom objects of cultural heritage belong.
Sonance for the Precession
Sept. 18–Dec. 22, 2019
Sonance for the Precession is a site-specific sound installation created by artist, musician, and composer Neil Leonard for the Berkshire quad on the Williams campus. The electroacoustic composition, played for 30 minutes each day half an hour before
sunset, explores ancient ideas connecting the precession, or movement, of the equinox with the harmonic series. The composition provides a context to reflect on how Hindu and Greek theories of astronomy and acoustics developed through intercultural exchange as far back as prehistoric times. The installation highlights the historic Hopkins Observatory, situated adjacent to the Williams College Museum of Art, and questions how astronomy can inform contemporary artistic practice.
Candle (from Earth into a Black Hole)
Sept. 6–Dec. 15, 2019
A white candle that burns down over 12 hours creates a journey through space via its scent. The layers of the candle, created by artist Katie Paterson, each contain a unique fragrance corresponding to a planet or place in the universe. Over the course of a series of two-hour activations in WCMA’s Reading Room, visitors will journey across the cosmos, traversing the invisible landscapes of the moon, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and into a vacuum. Candle is accompanied by Paterson’s book a place that exists only in moonlight—printed with cosmic dust—that contains a series of artworks existing in the imagination. The book comprises more than 100 short texts, each of which concerns the landscape, the universe, or an expanded sense of time.
Katie Paterson’s Candle unfolds over time during multiple activations over the course of its installation: Sept. 26; Oct. 10 and 24; and Nov. 7 and 21. At each, the candle will burn for two hours, releasing different layers of scent while poets, dancers, and musicians share original interventions inspired by the work. The candle will burn from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Interventions begin at 6 p.m.
Sense and Suggestion
Sept. 20, 2019–Jan. 26, 2020
Art museums are usually hushed spaces where touch is rarely allowed and sight is privileged. But some artworks refuse to play by these rules. Through actual sound, movement, and heat—and the suggestion of these—this exhibition of contemporary works of art from WCMA’s collection leads us on a multi-sensory journey, asking us to take a leap of imagination and bring our bodies into a different relationship to the space and objects around us.
Sept. 6–Dec. 15, 2019
Each semester, faculty across disciplines collaborate with museum staff to select works of art that relate to key course concepts. We display the artworks selected by participating professors in our hybrid gallery-classroom, offering access to students and the public throughout the semester. Students return to Object Lab as they develop a tour, create weekly journal entries about form and original context, and write ekphrastic poetry in response to specific works.
All At Once
Opening Sept. 6, 2019
Studio TheGreenEyl, a design and research practice, transforms the museum’s digitized collection into an immersive spatial experience on view in WCMA’s new multipurpose space. The interactive installation clusters objects by visual similarity, juxtaposing items that may be otherwise conceptually or historically distant. Using augmented reality (AR), viewers walk themselves through the collection in an installation that seeks to redefine the experience of visiting a museum building for the digital age. All At Once is an independent research project by Studio TheGreenEyl. This prototype installation uses the open access data and images that WCMA has developed as part of our ongoing work exploring new ways to digitize, share, and search the museum’s collection.
The Presence of Absence: Medieval Art and Artifacts
Reopens Sept. 6, 2019
What does it mean for a museum to dismiss the dichotomy of subject and object? Could we imagine such nonhuman things as the weather, demons, or Byzantine icons to have an equivalent agency to us? A 15th century bronze ecclesiastical bell and miniature ivory carvings have accrued their own histories that affect their relationships with humans and nonhumans alike. Employing object-oriented philosophy, this installation muses on a post-human future and privileges the wants and needs of the artworks over those of their audiences.