Carrie Mae Weems: Sea Island Series (2018)

Carrie Mae Weems, the 2013 MacArthur Fellowship recipient, has spent the past 30 years addressing issues of race, gender, family, class, and history in American Society in her artwork. In Sea Islands Series, made in the early 1990s, Weems photographically explores the spiritual and cultural life of the Gullah people living in the Sea Islands off the coast of Savannah, Georgia and South Carolina. Because of the islands’ physical isolation from the mainland and their majority black population, the residents were able to retain many aspects of African culture throughout the period of slavery and into the present day. By presenting these particular African American cultural details, especially those with direct links to Africa, Weems demonstrates a developed and persistent heritage, one that stands in contrast to what has often been erased in mainstream historical accounts

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Simone Leigh: Georgia Coastal Islands Residency (2018)

A sculptural exploration of female African American subjectivity—and informed by ancient African and African American object-making—this research residency and resultant exhibition of newly commissioned work offers an ethnographic presentation of Simone Leigh’s artistic practice with Georgia Coastal African American communities, particularly the Gullah Geechee Nation, considering how the migrations of enslaved people to Savannah inform residues of history and place. This exhibition will be on view concurrently with the first comprehensive presentation of Carrie Mae Weems’ Sea Island Series from 1991-1992, which features images and artifacts culled from the Gullah communities on islands off the coast of Savannah. Commission of new work.

KIRK VARNEDOE: IN THE MIDDLE AT THE MODERN (2017)

Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern is an exhibition organized and produced by Triple Candie, a phantom-like institution run by two art historians in Washington, DC. Triple Candie’s curatorial directive is to raise questions about art and the often unquestioned ideas surrounding it, like originality, authenticity, influence, history, formal value and biography-as-value. Kirk Varnedoe is a figure deeply connected to Telfair Museums’ and Savannah’s history and also vitally important to the field of Art History at large as a beloved American art historian, and the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art from 1988 to 2001. In 1984 and again in 1991, Varnedoe co-curated MoMA exhibitions that either presaged or set in motion huge debates that continue in the field of contemporary art to this day: 1984’s Primitivism in Twentieth-Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern and 1991’s High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture. The exhibition stages curatorial inquiry and offers a framework to reflect on how biography informs choice, with the hindsight of three decades. Commission of new work.

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NICK CAVE (2017)

Nick Cave is an internationally renowned artist well known for his Soundsuits, sculptural forms based on the scale of his body. Cave created his first Soundsuit in response to the Rodney King beating in LA in 1992. Soundsuits camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgment. On view will be a selection of Soundsuits made in the past 10 years, along with Tondos—large scaled circular wall works evoking the night sky and the cosmos—and recent videos documenting and performing the Soundsuits.

PAUL STEPHEN BENJAMIN: Black cotton flag made in georgia (2017)

Paul Stephen Benjamin’s work focuses on the politics of aesthetics, (mis)representation, and cultural assumption. Benjamin’s use of language and visual ephemera to interrogate long established cultural narratives, and their casual acceptance by and effect on the American public, has garnered national and international attention. Telfair Museums will display his work Black Cotton Flag Made in Georgia on the third floor landing at the top of the museum’s grand staircase, adjacent to the entry to the gallery featuring Nick Cave’s work and visible from the street outside the museum. The wall label lists the materials as black cotton, black thread, black sweat, and black labor, a reference to the harsh truth that the U.S. was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of African Americans.

Mickalene Thomas at giverny (2015)

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Monet and American Impressionism, this exhibition featured dazzling mixed-media works by Mickalene Thomas created during and in response to her artist’s residency at Monet’s home in Giverny, France, in 2011. Combining rhinestones with acrylic and oil paints she creates compositions that reference iconic works of art from nineteenth-century Europe, often replacing the European subjects with powerful and glamorous African American women to invite questions about conventional beauty, racial identity, and the traditional art historical narrative. This exhibition placed the continued relevance and influence of the nineteenth-century father of Impressionism into new relief.

Anne Ferrer: Hot Pink (2015)

The Jepson Center Eckburg Atrium will house a monumental inflatable sculpture by acclaimed Parisian artist Anne Ferrer. Titled Hot Pink, the huge biomorphic work was originally commissioned by the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, for that museum’s light-filled atrium. Ferrer is noted for her colorful, sensuous, and playful sculptures, which have been shown in venues ranging from the Pompidou Centre in Paris, to La Paz, Bolivia, to a recent large-scale work for the Houston Public Library. Ferrer’s vibrant works are something of a sensory overload. In past projects, she has collaborated with performers, composers, perfumers, and a pastry chef. Stitched from parachute fabric, Hot Pink’s billowing form will remain on view through the fall of 2015, overlapping with an exhibition of another French artist who explored the possibilities of colors, Claude Monet.

Karrie Hovey: the Garden Grows: Inside and Out (2014)

Noted San Francisco-based artist Karrie Hovey undertakes a residency at Telfair Museums to raise awareness of the creative possibilities of recycled materials and to support the City of Savannah’s recycling effort. Hovey has created her art in venues across the U.S. and China, highlighting issues from recycling to endangered species.

Hovey transforms humble materials into vibrant gardens, using items such as cast-off packing foam and old telephone books. At the Jepson Center, she will create an installation, …the Garden Grows: Inside and Out, in the Eckburg Atrium and public spaces. Hovey also will lead a workshop for teens that results in a collaborative installation at the Jepson Center, coinciding with April’s Free Family Day.

Whitfield Lovell: Deep River (2014)

Whitfield Lovell is internationally renowned for his thought-provoking portraits and signature tableaux. In this site-specific exhibition, Lovell utilized sculpture, video, drawing, sound, and music to create an environment that fully engages the visitor’s senses and emotions. His art pays tribute to the lives of anonymous African Americans and is universal in its exploration of passage, memory, and the search for freedom. The multi-media Deep River installation converted a 2,500-square-foot gallery into a unique environment, which the viewer entered and experienced as a personal journey. The darkened space, which Lovell designed specifically for the Jepson Center, surrounded the viewer with projected images of a flowing river, as the sounds of chirping birds and the river’s rushing currents fill the air. The center of the gallery contained a massive mound of dirt, strewn with everyday objects seemingly abandoned by past inhabitants of the space. Dozens of reclaimed wooden discs, each containing a portrait of a single figure, surrounded the mound of dirt and populate the installation. Together, these elements created a haunting and mesmerizing passage. 

SARAH FROST: ARSENAL (2013)

Arsenal was an immersive installation by Sarah Frost comprised of hundreds of hand-made paper “guns” suspended from the ceiling that envelop the visitor. Creating an environment that is both beautiful and haunting, the project was inspired by Frost’s discovery of a community of boys who self-publish instructional YouTube videos for making elaborate and highly realistic paper guns, replicas of assault rifles, bazooka shells, pistols, and guns, out of copy paper and Scotch tape. Learning this craft from the videos, Frost methodically created hundreds of these paper gun forms to create a massive arsenal. For Frost, this simultaneous attraction to the workmanship and discomfort with the subject matter was fascinating. Like an anthropologist, in Arsenal she re-presented found forms; because they are found, they are inherently reflective of their context and society. The installation evoked question-of meaning, politics, fragility, the need to communicate and so forth-above all it was a distillation of form, construction and the placement of objects within a space.

YOUR LAND/MY LAND: ELECTION ’12 (2012)

Your Land/My Land: Election ’12 was an installation by Jonathan Horowitz that occurred simultaneously at seven museums across the country during the month leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. At each location, red and blue area rugs divided the exhibition space into opposing zones – one broadcasting a live feed of Fox News and the other of MSNBC – reflecting America’s color-coded, political, and cultural divide. The installation provided a space for people to gather, watch coverage of, and talk about the election. 

LEO VILLAREAL (2012)

Leo Villareal is a pioneer in the use of LEDs and computer-driven imagery and known both for his light sculptures and architectural, site-specific works. This exhibition, his first major traveling museum survey, explores how Villareal presents a new vision of art that responds and relates to the innovations of the 21st-century, using computer code and new technology as a medium for abstraction. This exhibition was organized by the San Jose Museum of Art.