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August 13, 1999


Baltimore, MD - The UMBC Fine Arts Gallery is proud to announce the upcoming exhibition Adrian Piper: A Retrospective, 1965 - 2000, an overview of this important Twentieth Century artist's work. A Professor of Philosophy at Wellsley College, Adrian Piper's principle publications are in metaethics and Kant's metaphysics for which she has received numerous awards, including support from the Getty Instutite and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Approximately 50 examples of Piper's conceptual art work, gathered in the one location for the first time, will allow visitors an unprecedented opportunity to experience her examination of race, class, and gender in this society for over the last thirty five years.

Curated by Maurice Berger, Senior Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School for Social Research, Adjunct Curator of the Fine Arts Gallery, and author of the recent publication White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1999), this exhibition is funded in part by the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council.

"Adrian Piper's installations, performances, drawings and videos stand alone in their ability to challenge and expand our attitudes about race and gender. From forays into the cool stylistic and intellectual sensibilities of minimalism and conceptualism in the mid-1960s to the political reinterpretation of these idioms in her work of the past two decades, Piper, one of the country's most distinguished philosophers and one of a handful of tenured African-American women philosophy professors, is responsible for a remarkable body of work in a broad range of media.

The images and conceptual experiences that make up any given work or installation by Adrian Piper ask the viewer to look beyond his or her confusion, ambivalence, or discomfort. Piper's oeuvre eases the viewer into multiple, humanistic, and searching levels of self-inquiry. It affords significant insight, glimmers of light, and wisdom that might help the viewer find his or her way out of racist and sexist attitudes.

This retrospective centers on the most ignored aspect of Piper's aesthetic innovations: the relationship between the form and styles of art on one hand and the work's political and emotional messages on the other. Over the past thirty-five years Piper has used artistic media in radical and inventive ways. Centering on the photographic image and temporal experience, Piper's art melds the visual devices of photo-conceptualism with the body-oriented, sculptural concerns of minimalist sculpture and performance. This exhibition demonstrates through diverse examples that a groundbreaking connection exists between form and content in Piper's work - a connection that allows her moving social commentary on racism and sexism to be more deeply felt by the spectator. It is Piper's stylistic innovations that make her social commentary, and her open invitation to the viewer to self-inquire into explosive matters of race and sexuality, so effective, persuasive, and provocative.

The exhibition follows the complex stylistic development of the artist's oeuvre through more than fifty objects, videos, and installations. Included will be Piper's earliest "pre-conceptual" paintings, themselves a veritable lexicon of painterly styles in the twentieth-century, from minimalist and painterly abstraction to psychedelic fantasy and expressionist realism; the "minimalist/ conceptualist" experiments and projects of the late 1960s - works based on photographic images that document the relationship of the eye and body to the phenomenological spaces of the world around us; the performances of the late 1960s and early 1970s - pivotal works in Piper's oeuvre - that blend the phenomenological interests of the earlier work with overt social concerns, such as the widespread racism in America and the perilous place of women's bodies and political existence in a sexist world; the photo-conceptualist videos and large-scale photo series and installations of the mid-1970s; the major installations, drawings, and manipulated-photo pieces of the 1980s; and finally, the artist's more recent attempts to merge her earlier performative and photo-conceptualist styles and forms with more personal statements about friendship, mortality, and spirituality.

The exhibition will also explore the formidable social content of Piper's work - her edgy and provocative examination of the viewer's personal, and most often unspoken, attitudes about race and gender. While the artist is keenly aware that it is much easier to look at "art" than face the reality of one's own bigotry, she refuses either to reaffirm art's removal from the social sphere or to justify the reluctance of most people to even discuss this nation's most vexing problems." (Excerpted from the curator's precis.)

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major catalogue on Piper's art and theory, the third volume in the Fine Art Gallery's series Issues in Cultural Theory, designed by UMBC Associate Professor of Visual Art, Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo. The two-hundred-page book will contain essays by exhibition curator Maurice Berger (on the relationship between form and content in Piper's oeuvre), and critics Kobena Mercer (on Piper's formidable influence on several generations of American artists), Jean Fisher (on Piper's social content), and Laura Cottingham (on Piper's video and performance work). The catalogue will be fully illustrated in black-and-white and color and will contain an interview with the artist, chronology of her career, bibliography, and checklist.

A symposium on the cultural politics of race and gender will take place on UMBC's campus in November. Scheduled speakers will include Robert Storr, Artist, Critic, and Senior Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (November 9 at 7 p.m.); Judith Wilson, Professor of Africana Studies and Art History at the University of California, Irvine (November 11 at 7 p.m.); and critic Thelma Golden (October 26, time to be announced). Lecture locations are forthcoming.

In addition to the symposium, the exhibition will be accompanied by a major education initiative. The education component will include an on-going program - held within the exhibition itself - geared toward primary and secondary students. Conducted by MacArthur Fellow Wendy Ewald, these programs will include workshops on race for teachers as well as for students grades five through twelve.

A national tour is also currently being organized for the exhibition. Traveling venues will have the option of including a supplemental exhibition of the complete performance and video work of the artist. The supplementary exhibition will be available through another institution by a collateral agreement for a modest additional fee.

The Fine Arts Gallery is located on the UMBC campus just minutes from downtown Baltimore. For more information about the exhibition and the Fine Arts Gallery programs or publications, please contact Symmes Gardner, Director of Programs, at (410) 455-3188, or Joanna Raczynska, Program Assistant, at (410) 455-2065.

Posted by dwinds1 at August 13, 1999 12:00 AM