MISSOULA – This fall, the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana will present another special exhibit that underscores the power of language. “Present Tense: Prints from the Jordan D. Schnitzer Collection” will be on display at the MMAC from Thursday, Sept. 29, to Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The exhibition contains a selection of prints by contemporary artists that incorporate text or language.
In the past several decades, visual artists have explored language, text, words and even single letters to address serious social and political issues such as gender, violence, pollution and racism.
But they also have used language to intrigue us, to make us curious or to make us smile. The use of text in art often compels the viewer to slow down and carefully consider the words, not only their superficial meaning but also their deeper meaning as symbols of larger ideas.
“Present Tense” includes works by famous contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, who used language to challenge its typical narrative function. In Lalla Essaydi’s large-scale photograph, “Les Femmes du Maroc No. 35,” the artist’s calligraphy covers every surface in the room, including the subject’s face, hands and feet. Through this forceful and explicit reinterpretation of 19th-century European portraiture, Essaydi inverts the historical tradition of outsiders – particularly white, male Europeans – defining the meaning of Arabic women’s bodies.
Other artists such as Jenny Holzer or Robert Cottingham have used letters, words or short phrases to make viewers think about shape and symbolic meaning in different ways.
Included in the exhibition are works by John Baldessari, Mark Bennett, Mel Bochner, Jonathan Borofsky, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Cottingham, Simon Donaldson, Essaydi, Tony Fitzpatrick, Robert Gober, Jenny Holzer, Julia Jacquette, Chris Johanson, Johns, Barbara Kruger, Silvia Levenson, Glenn Ligon, Allan McCollum, Bruce Nauman, Jim Riswold, Ed Ruscha, Jonathan Seliger, Lorna Simpson and Warhol.
MMAC Curator and Exhibitions Coordinator Jeremy Canwell selected works for the show from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer, whose holdings exceed 9,000 works of art and represent many of today’s most important contemporary artists. MMAC’s “Present Tense” builds on Schnitzer’s generous lending program, which has facilitated over 100 exhibitions through loans to more than 75 qualified institutions.
The exhibition will open to the public with a reception from 5 to 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in UM’s Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center. The opening reception will begin with a presentation by Portland, Oregon-based art collector and art lender Jordan D. Schnitzer in the Masquer Theatre, followed by a printmaking workshop led by UM Professor Elizabeth Dove from 6 to 7 p.m. in the PAR/TV lobby. Food and beverages will be served.
Additional programming in conjunction with the exhibition will include a panel discussion from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, and a lecture by Canwell at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, both held in the PAR/TV Masquer Theatre. All events are free and open to the public.
MMAC docents are looking forward to sharing this exhibit with the public. Special public docent tours will be offered at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and Thursday, Dec. 8. The special tours require no reservations or advanced notice. Private docent tours for a group can be arranged by calling 406-243-2019.
MMAC’s gallery hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum/.