Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Amadou Diallo, 2009. Woodcut on paper. 36 × 24 in. Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase, 2009.89

Black Matters

July 6, 2020 - October 11, 2020

Graphics Gallery

This exhibition features a series of woodcut prints by artist Matthew Owen Wead. Each print depicts a Black individual who was killed by police officers or armed vigilantes. Many of the perpetrators were later exonerated of the crimes in which they were charged. These artworks are Wead’s way of confronting a system that is intended to protect everyone yet has subjugated and brutalized so many, and to remind everyone that Black matters.

Although the initial series was completed in 2009, Wead explains that it “has now become a never-ending and daunting task.” Included in this exhibition are three new prints portraying Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery.

From the Artist

"On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death and after a while that does something to your psyche. It's literally saying, ‘black people, you might be next. You will be next.’ But in hindsight it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be." - Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter

The intention of this series grew out of the pain he felt hearing, seeing, and reading about the unnecessary brutal force enacted on to these victims. To peer into their eyes was to show another point of view—to maybe strike empathy in the audience—and to allow them to think about how they would react in a similar situation. The title of the series, Shooting Targets, came from the reckless abandon that has been shown and addressed to black people, in both the interactions and then the aftermath, as an afterthought. Black people have become target practice, thrown away, and erased when the next news cycle hits. There is a repetition in the process of killing us without any repercussions for doing so, and sometimes being rewarded to do so. 

This was not meant to be a continuing series—it has now become a never-ending and daunting task. While this is meant to serve from the perspective of the artist, his statement is to look into the eyes of Black queer, trans, and all Black lives that are subjugated and brutalized under a system that was meant to protect them. Unfortunately, there are countless examples that could be included in this series—never to completion—and seems that it will never end in our lifetimes.

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Takeshi Murata, American, b. 1974. Untitled (Pink Dot), 2012. Color, sound. Duration: 4 minutes 25 seconds. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

Untitled (Pink Dot)

September 1, 2020 - September 30, 2020

Media Arts Gallery

In Untitled (Pink Dot), Takeshi Murata transforms footage from the 1982 Sylvester Stallone film Rambo: First Blood into a swamp of seething electronic abstraction. Subjected to Murata’s meticulous digital reprocessing, the action scenes decompose and are subsumed into an almost palpable, cascading digital sludge, presided over by a hypnotically pulsating pink dot. Murata produces digital works that refigure the experience of animation. Whether altering appropriated footage from cinema, or creating fields of seething color, he produces astonishing visions that appear at once organic and digital.

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Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911/12, Chinese, Chime: Dragon in Clouds, 1765, Jadeite, 26 7/8 x 29 3/4 x 12 1/4 inches. Gift of Mrs. Fredrick B. Miner, FIA 1968.13

Art of Jade

August 15, 2020 - May 23, 2021

Ann K. Walch-Chan Gallery

Since the Neolithic period, jade has been valued for its rarity as well as its beauty. Art of Jade explores the history of the cultures who work with Jade, as well as the functional, stylistic, and technical developments of jade as an artistic medium throughout time. The artworks in this exhibition were made by artists who patiently ground and drilled the material, a process that could take days, months, and even years to complete. Because of the stone’s beauty, strength, and rarity, jade has become a symbol of social identity, hierarchy, status, wealth, and power in both Chinese and Mesoamerican cultures. This exhibition features 75 objects­— including new acquisitions from Mesoamerican cultures—dating back as early as 1200 BCE, and from China dating from 3200 BCE.

To hear the sound of the jade chimes, click here.

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Alexis Rockman, American, born 1962. Forces of Change, 2017. Oil and acrylic on wood panel, 72 × 144 in. (182.9 × 365.8 cm). Collection of Jonathan O'Hara Gallery

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle

July 11, 2020 - September 27, 2020

Henry Gallery Hodge Gallery

Referencing the past, present, and future, Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle examines the shaping of one of the most important freshwater systems—the Great Lakes. Considered one of the most ecologically significant environments in the world, the lakes are habitats for more than 3,500 species of amphibians, birds, fish, and plants. The artworks in this exhibition—including five 12-foot panoramic paintings—are based on the artist’s extensive research. While celebrating the natural majesty and global importance of the Great Lakes, Rockman also explores how one of the world’s most significant ecosystems is threatened by human forces including climate change, pollution, invasive species, mass agriculture, and urban sprawl. 

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle is organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, with support generously provided by the Wege Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Frey Foundation, and LaFontsee Galleries and Framing.

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Nathalia Edenmont, Swedish, born Ukraine, born 1970. Eden, 2012. C-print mounted on glass. 60 1/4 × 68 7/8 in. (153 × 175 cm). Courtesy of the artist.

Beauty and Pain: Photographs by Nathalia Edenmont

July 11, 2020 - September 27, 2020

Henry Gallery

Surveying highlights of Nathalia Edenmont’s photography from 2007 to 2018, this exhibition reveals how her work and life are intertwined. Her early work focuses on the loss of her mother when she was a teenager. That life-changing experience shaped her artistic philosophy, with the artist stating that “there is no beauty without pain or pain without beauty, and in my mind, they are the same.” Her later work in the Fruitfulness series reflects her struggle with infertility. The women in these images—who are often a stand-in for the artist herself—also emanate power, showing control with their gesture and expression, conveying the idea that there is healing to be found through art.

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Viola Frey, American, 1933-2004. The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, 1992. Ceramic and glazes. 95 x 202 x 66 inches. Artists’ Legacy Foundation, Oakland, CA. 2019 © Artists’ Legacy Foundation / Licensed by ARS, New York.

Monumental: The Art of Viola Frey

March 14, 2020 - October 25, 2020

Harris - Burger Gallery

This exhibition includes drawings, glass, and ceramics from the last 15 years of California artist Viola Frey’s life. When asked about her early artistic influences, Frey answered, “I had to make my own culture.” She found inspiration at her family’s farm in Lodi, California. From the discarded farm machinery that littered their property to trinkets from the local flea market, everyday items influenced her subject matter. In college she discovered art history and incorporated elements like ancient vessels alongside pop culture references. In the mid-1970s, Frey’s art took on the monumental scale for which she is most well known. Her backyard in Oakland, California, doubled as her studio for over two decades until she moved to an even larger space where she continued to create bigger, brighter artwork until her death in 2004.


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Installation of The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

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