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AU Museum Explores Agriculture as Art

By Maggie Barrett

AU Museum Explores Agriculture as Art

Patrick McDonough, 132206-mussels three ways, 2013 (Detail). Mussel shells separated from waste stream of Marvin Restaurant (Washington DC), thread, outdoor furniture fabric, responsibly sourced red oak. Courtesy of the artist and G Fine Art.

The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center launches its 2013-2014 season with exhibitions that offer a distinctly environmental appeal: one exhibition that explores agriculture as art and activism, and a second exhibition that explores the relationship between aesthetics and sustainability.

In addition, the museum will feature the first ever exhibition of works in the The Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art. The museum received the collection in 2011 as a gift.

All three exhibitions open Tuesday, September 3 and close Sunday, October 20.

GREEN ACRES: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses, and Abandoned Lots is a multi-seasonal, interactive show focused on agriculture as art and activism. Developed by independent curator Sue Spaid, this collaborative exhibition features gardening tools, live video feeds, and satellite projects as it explores farming awareness, biodiversity, and the juxtaposition of farming communities and community farming.

The show—brought to Washington, D.C. from the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio—is held in collaboration with the Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA, which is presenting its half of Green Acres June 28–Oct 13, 2013.

With the growing popularity of urban agriculture, sustainable and organic farming, community gardens and community supported agriculture groups (CSAs), and food co-ops, the agriculture-as-art field has experienced a recent surge, evidenced by the vast number of works in Green Acres that were completed during the past five years.

“American University is well known in Washington, D.C. and around the world as a higher education leader in sustainability practices,” said Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the American University Museum. “These two exhibitions show how environmentalism and agriculture have become important aspects of contemporary art practice.”

Patrick McDonough: brightveridiansentinelevents examines the relationship between sustainability and aesthetics, a timely and important topic in the face of climate change and increased interest in alternative energy and technologies.

Utilizing the museum’s interior gallery space and outdoor sculpture garden, McDonough presents discrete objects, performance documentation, and solar powered appliance sculptures that blend wit and insight, playfulness and provocation.

In conjunction with GREEN ACRES: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses, and Abandoned Lots and Patrick McDonough: brightveridiansentinelevents, AU’s Office of Sustainability will host guided green tours of the campus at 11 a.m. on Thursday, September 19 and October 17, including AU’s green buildings, vegetated roofs, and green energy systems.

Joining the two sustainability-focused exhibitions will be the first exhibition of works from the Donald Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art, an extraordinary gift of Israeli Art to the American University Museum from Dr. Donald Rothfeld of New York City of in honor of H.E. Ambassador Michael B. Oren.

Selections from the extensive collection chronicle Israel’s history and include the work of numerous prominent and emerging Israeli artists, such as Uri Aran, Yael Bartana, Tsibi Geva, Moshe Kupferman, Siglat Landau, Elad Lassry, and Michal Rovner.

“In its first eight years, the American University Museum has focused on international art, and particularly on contemporary art from the Middle East, already presenting major exhibitions from Syria, Lebanon, and Israel,” Rasmussen said. “The Rothfeld gift helps us build a collection that will encourage this free, continuing discussion of ideas, beliefs, and values in the region—exactly what is needed today.”

Rothfeld gave the collection to the American University Museum to help inspire dialogue about the political issues involving Israel. American University is also home to the Center for Israel Studies, which is sponsoring the exhibition, and an undergraduate minor in Israel studies that is one of the premier programs of its kind in the United States.

“I felt that the work should be gifted to a non-Jewish-Israeli affiliated institution. I wanted the artist’s work ‘out there’ to be seen, discussed, and compared with that of their peers across the globe,” Rothfeld said. “When I learned about AU’s Israel Studies Program and met the staff, I was convinced that this was the right venue for the work. The beauty of the Katzen Arts Center and the Washington, D.C., location made it a ‘slam dunk.’”

Fall for the Arts

The museum will also participate in American University’s second annual Fall for the Arts on Saturday, October 5. The event is open to the public, including local residents, patrons of the arts, parents of AU students, and the entire AU community.

The day will feature an afternoon of dynamic classes including orchestral conducting, the history of audio recording, a playwriting class, and a discussion of the role of interruption as a catalyst for art, to name just a few. Classes suitable for children are so noted in the descriptions. Surprise performances will pop up when least expected.

The day will conclude with an early evening cocktail reception in the Katzen Arts Center and a live art auction featuring local artists, including works by Timothy App, Raya Bodnarchuck, Jack Boul, Lisa Montag Brotman, Joan Danziger, Alan Feltus, Carol Goldberg, Michael Graham, Tom Green, Lee Haner, Lani Irwin, Wolf Kahn, Micheline Klagsbrun, Edith Kuhnle, Lou Stovall, Di Stovall, Tim Tate, and Sharon Wolpoff.

“The auction features great examples of amazing artists at the top of their game,” said Rasmussen.

The works to be auctioned will be exhibited in the museum beginning Saturday, September 7.

Registration is required to participate in Fall for the Arts and the auction. For more information, go to the Fall for the Arts website.

Proceeds from Fall for the Arts will benefit the arts at AU.

Also Showing at the Katzen Arts Center

But the museum isn’t the only part of the Katzen Arts Center that will be exhibiting art this fall. Also showing in the Kreeger Lobby and Katzen Arts Center Rotunda are The Nevergiveups and Tapestry as Testimony: Arpilleras of Chile, respectively.

The Nevergiveups photo exhibition by South African photojournalist Eric Miller—showing in the Kreeger Lobby at the Katzen Arts Center Sunday, September 1, through Tuesday, October 15—is about a group of grandmothers with extraordinary grit, care for others and even humor, despite the heavy burdens they carry. The grandmothers in the exhibition helped form a support and activist group called Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA). This organization, they say, “is keeping us alive.” Presented by AU’s Department of Sociology and the Department of Women's Studies at Old Dominion University, The Nevergiveups, loosely translated from the Xhosa term “Amatsha Ntliziyo,” captures the struggle and spirit of 17 grandmothers in intimate portraits of them and their families.

Tapestry as Testimony: Arpilleras of Chile—on display in the Katzen Arts Center Rotunda Wednesday, September 11, through Sunday, October 20—features tapestries created by Chilean people that depict the harsh realities of life during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, launched by the military coup in Chile 40 years ago on September 11, 1973. These tapestries, known as arpilleras, get their name from the Spanish word for the burlap backing used to make them. These arpilleras are a living testimony that celebrates the dignity and courage of the Chilean people as they struggled for human rights and democracy under a repressive military regime that lasted for 17 years.