This exhibition investigates the materials, techniques and reception of painted wood sculpture in Europe between the 13th and the 18th centuries. Polychrome (multicolored) wood sculptures are today recognized as art objects, but at the time they were made, viewers interacted with the sculptures as if they were alive. Most of the works on view here represent sacred figures from Christianity, and their lifelike appearance was central to their function as objects of prayer and devotion. Whether located in a church or a home, the sculptures were part of a multisensory experience.
Comprised of nearly 100 works in many media, Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem showcases close to a century of creative achievement by artists of African descent, including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Maren Hassinger, Norman Lewis, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Lorna Simpson, James VanDerZee, and Kehinde Wiley. Founded in 1968, The Studio Museum in Harlem has built an incomparable collection and become a model for how museums can be sites for exchanging ideas about art and society.
Trained as a weaver, Agano Machiko is known today for fiber art installations that capture the invisible forces of nature. In the late 1990s, she began knitting fishing line and steel wire together in garter stitch with oversized needles.
This grouping of fourteen objects highlights the relationship between North American Indigenous artists and artists from the European societies that occupy their homelands.
During the 1980s, Sheila Pepe worked at SCMA in multiple roles, beginning as a gallery guard before working as a preparator’s assistant and a curatorial and administrative intern. In 2008, she returned to SCMA, to make Red Hook at Bedford Terrace. For Pepe, Red Hook at Bedford Terrace is a celebration of intersections and connectivity, of places, people, and their labor.
On the occasion of SCMA’s centennial, this exhibition asks what it means to make and continually remake a museum. Smith College began collecting art at its founding in the 1870s, but it was not until 1920 that the collection was recognized as a museum. Through strategic purchases and generous gifts, the majority of which have come from Smith alumnae, the collection continues to grow. The development of the museum’s collection over the past century reveals the institution’s evolving vision and values.
In 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt needed to generate enthusiasm for his New Deal. The challenge was to find support for investments into programs and services directed primarily to the recovery of rural America, which most city folk had not experienced firsthand. Roosevelt’s conversational and intimate fireside radio chats brought him into people’s homes. His straight talk promised hope and comfort to an ailing nation and highlighted what the government was doing to remedy the country’s ills.
Clarissa Tossin’s Ch’u Mayaa questions the forms of cultural appropriation in modernist architecture. Tossin focuses on Mayan Revival style as it manifested in Los Angeles during the early 20th century and sets the work in the Hollyhock House (built 1919–1921), a private home in Los Angeles designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Working with the choreographer and performer Crystal Sepúlveda, Tossin based Ch’u Mayaa’s choreography and movements on the gestures and poses represented in Mayan ceramics and murals.
This exhibition presents Buddhist objects and Buddhist-inspired artworks, from across and beyond Asia, in their many and varied styles and expressions. The concept of “Asia,” which was invented by ancient Greeks and Romans and perpetuated by European geographers, misrepresents diverse groups of people and their divergent civilizations by suggesting they form a cohesive whole. Buddhism, however, is one of the few cultural traditions that has connected distinctive Asian populations over time.
The impact of human action on the earth has increased dramatically in the past 50 years. This installation, organized to coincide with Smith College’s Year on Climate Change, features a selection of works from the SCMA collection created between the early 1970s and mid-2000s that focus on the intersection of human life and our environment.
The story of plastic is as complex as the polymer chains that make up its unique material properties. Plastic Entanglements brings together sixty works by thirty contemporary artists to explore the environmental, aesthetic, and technological entanglements of our ongoing love affair with this paradoxical, infinitely malleable substance. Both miraculous and malignant, ephemeral yet relentlessly present, plastic infiltrates our global networks, our planet, and even our bodies.
This special installation, from SCMA's collection, traces the unique histories of over 20 of the Museum’s most important works of African art. New research has connected artists with objects that were previously unattributed, while the roles of collectors and donors are examined in conjunction with the objects’ own cultural histories and meanings.