August 07, 2009

Palmist Building (Winter) Havana Junction, Alabama, 1981

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University has scheduled several exhibitions for the 2009-10 academic year, beginning Aug. 26 with "William Christenberry: Site/Possession."

The exhibition, curated by Andrea Douglas of the University of Virginia Art Museum, continues through Oct. 9 in the main gallery.

Christenberry and Douglas will participate in a conversation about the exhibition on Friday, Aug. 28, at 5 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center. The artist/curator talk and the exhibition are free and open to the public.

"William Christenberry is an artist whose work I have long admired," said Dan Mills, director of the Samek Art Gallery. "The Samek is very pleased to present 'Site/Possession,' an important exhibition that expands our understanding of his work. Andrea Douglas has curated a superb and insightful superb and insightful exhibition."

Southern landscape and identity
"What I really feel very strongly about, and I hope reflects in all aspects of my work, is the human touch, the humanness of things, the positive and sometimes the negative and sometimes the sad," Christenberry said in a 2006 NPR story. It is this very "humanness of things" that "William Christenberry: Site/Possession" conveys.

Since 1959, Christenberry has attempted to "possess" the Southern landscape and culture that help to form his identity. A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., he has returned to Hale and Perry counties consistently for more than 40 years to document changes and refresh his inspiration.

Although the exhibition includes paintings, photographs, constructions and dream buildings, "Site/Possession" focuses on the artist's drawings, created between 1959 and 2006 (there are more than 50 in the exhibition), and his "Klan Room Tableau."

According to Douglas, "This exhibition, unlike those that have preceded it, offers a re-evaluation of the artist's intent, focusing on how his rarely exhibited drawings form the basis and inspiration of all his other work."

Still-evolving installation
The "Klan Room Tableau" is a project that arose from a terrifying incident, the artist's failed attempt to enter a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in 1960. Begun in 1962, it is a still-evolving installation that has been a means of exorcising the demons that have haunted Christenberry since this encounter.

The "Tableau" is an intense, densely packed installation that will fill the low-lit Project Room floor to ceiling with an accumulation of more than 300 Klan dolls, paintings, drawings and other objects, creating an intense sense of unease for viewers. The "Tableau" is a manifestation of the artist's lifelong hatred of the racism, prejudice and violence that the Klan represents.

"Christenberry is not interested in creating an image that reproduces the way a place actually looks," said Douglas. "Working both intuitively and as a trained professional artist, he seeks to capture the real feeling of a place.

"This is particularly true of the 'Klan Room Tableau,' arguably Christenberry's most vociferous expression of social protest and emotive power. The installation can be seen as a means of exorcising the demons that have haunted the artist since his first encounter in 1960 with a Klansman as he neared the third floor of a Tuscaloosa courthouse," she said.

Christenberry's work has been the focus of many recent exhibitions, including "Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry," a survey Smithsonian American Art Museum that recently completed a national tour. Christenberry is also an educator: he has been on the art faculty at the Corcoran College of Art and Design since 1968. He is represented by Hemphill Fine Arts in Washington, D.C., and Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York City.

Other exhibitions include:
Oct. 23 - Dec. 8:
"Splendor: West African Art from the Collection of Alfred Prince, Part 1," in the main gallery, curated by Mills and organized by the Samek Art Gallery.

"Prince has an extraordinary collection of West African art including life-size carved wooden figures, masks made with a wide variety of materials, cast and worked metal objects, and wooden furniture," said Mills.

"This is the first in a series of exhibitions planned over the next several years that will focus on different areas of Dr. Prince's collection," he said. During each exhibition, students will research various objects in conjunction with their courses. A post-series publication will illustrate the exhibitions and include student writing.

"Splendor Part I" focuses on the human figure, with sculptures that represent fertility, maternity, sacred subjects, and death. Some figures are worn while dancing, while others serve more utilitarian purposes, or as fetishes.

"Dr. Prince has given objects from his collection to the permanent collection, and has promised many more," said Mills. "Due to his extraordinary generosity, the museum will one day have an important collection of objects that will make it possible for Bucknell students and the regional community to study African art and culture through direct access to West African art."   

Oct. 23 - Dec. 8: "Jiang Lu and Chen Pu: Journey", in the project room. Curated by Mills and organized by the Samek Art Gallery, this exhibition focuses on works on paper by two Tianjin-based contemporary artists. Both Jiang and Chen make work that embodies ideas of journey - Chen makes silkscreen prints and Jiang creates ink and wash paintings.

Jiang's "On the Journey" series combines images of suitcases and the motion-filled and gestural marks, washes, and splatters of ink and brush painting. The journeys of Chen's work are travels through time in a series of silkscreens that combine photographic images from the Maoist era and the cultural revolution with images of consumer era furniture and personal accessories.

Oct. 23 - Dec. 8: "Epic Painting" with works by Ali Banisadr, Charles Browning, Robert Colescott, Julie Heffernan, Laurie Hogin and Nicky Nodjoumi, in the main gallery.

Curated by Mills, and organized by the Samek Art Gallery, this exhibition features one significant, large-scale painting each by six acclaimed painters. "The artists address many important issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, including issues of race, war, the environment, misuse of power, human conflict, and sexuality," said Mills.

Feb. 1 - April 1, 2010: "Fransje Killaars: Color at the Center", in the main gallery. Curated by Mills, the exhibition will introduce the Amsterdam-based artist to a North American audience through a traveling exhibition of recent installations, installed by the artist with students/community members at each venue.

"Killaars merges painting, architecture, and fashion, mixing references from a range of cultures - with fabrics from Japan, acrylic blankets designed by the artist and handwoven in India, and draped figures reminiscent of Burka-clad women and Greek caryatides," Mills said.

Feb. 1 - April 1, 2010: "Harry Shearer: The Silent Echo Chamber," in the project room. The video installation is a compilation of video clips of well-known personalities including James Carville, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Chris Matthews, Dr. Phil and Larry King just moments before they go on live TV. One of America's most prominent satirists, Shearer says of the video, "In these moments, television returns to its roots as a visual medium."

April 16 - May 4, 2010: "Annual Student Art Exhibition" which provides the university community and regional audience an opportunity to view art created by art majors from the Department of Art and Art History, as well as work by graduate student assistants. The exhibition features advanced student projects and also includes selections from courses in painting, printmaking, graphic design, sculpture, photography, video and installation.

The Samek Art Gallery is located on the third floor of the Elaine Langone Center. Admission is free. Gallery hours during the academic year are weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., weekends 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

The Gallery is accessible by elevator. For more information about the gallery, call 570-577-3792 or visit

Contact: Division of Communications