Identity, Diversity on display at SU Art Museum’s 1st Semester Gallery

The Syracuse University Museum of Art’s latest exhibit, ‘5,500 Years of Art’, is like a walk through history, with pieces dating back to 206 BC and as recent as last year .

Designed by Melissa Yuen, one of the museum’s curators, along with museum staff and graduate assistants, the curation includes works from the museum’s permanent collection, loans, and pieces from the Art Bridges Foundation, a group of artistic philanthropy. It is intended to spark conversations among students about identity, location, gender, race, job, and lineage.

“Melissa highlighted the unique way the artworks allow everyone to explore the same questions, concerns and themes that have been discussed by artists over the past 5,500 years that our collection represents,” said Emily Dittman, associate director of the SU Art Museum. .

The Art Bridges Foundation loaned two pieces to the SU Art Museum for the exhibition: “Portrait of Qusuquzah #5” and “Double Nonsite, California and Nevada”.

The foundation aims to broaden access to American art. Instead of focusing on grants for more artwork, the foundation supports its partners by creating collectible exhibits and loaning artwork.

The first loaned piece, “Portrait of Qusuquzah #5”, was painted by Mickalene Thomas in 2011 and is made of acrylic paint and rhinestones. The piece features a black transgender model looking directly at the viewer, which Yuen says hopes to spark a discourse about identity on campus.

“(Painting is) really important for us to have here on a college campus, to really think about who we are, how we present ourselves and how does that reflect different aspects of who we are,” he said. she stated.

Thomas’ work contrasts a portrait of Louis XIV hanging next door.

“This juxtaposition also speaks to a greater art-historical sense of who has been depicted in such large-scale portraits throughout history,” Yuen added.

The other Art Bridges Foundation piece, “Double Nonsite, California and Nevada,” was created by sculptor Robert Smithson in 1969 and consists of four square-shaped steel boxes filled with rocks.

The center was made of obsidian from Nevada and lava from Mark Mountain in California. It aims to create conversations about the location and what it means to different viewers, Yuen said.

“It was really important to me to be able to open up those conversations and use the gallery as a space to have those conversations,” she said.

One piece, titled “Great American Muse #35”, is by Roger Shimomura, a 1969 SU graduate. He is known for incorporating elements of pop art, made famous by Andy Warhol, while using elements of his Japanese heritage.

“He wanted to break the stigma of what Japanese artists are allowed to paint because they weren’t really known for ‘engaging with the greats,'” Yuen said.

The overall goal of this exhibit is to spark conversations through artworks that cross geographic boundaries and time periods to engage students with broader ideas, Yuen said.

“I hope these associations will spark new dialogues and critical reviews of work to be seen for research or personal conversations by the SU community and beyond,” Yuen said.

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