2014 in Review at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

A look back on a year of exhibitions at the museum

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Interactive Gallery preparation with students from Memphis College of Art

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Interactive Gallery preparation with students from Memphis College of Art

We started 2014 with pyramids on this blog and pyramids is how we will end it. Last January we mentioned the Pyramids of Giza in conjunction with a photography exhibition and how, in 1982, the pyramids were moved closer together (digitally) in a photograph to better fit on the cover of National Geographic magazine. This was done without the consent of the photographer, and provides an early example of a photo-manipulation faux pas. The exhibition we had on view, Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography, provided examples of this kind of pre-Photoshop handiwork without having to be labeled a misstep. Photographers such as David Levinthal and Vik Muniz reminded us that “throughout the short history of the medium, photographs have been staged, fabricated, and manipulated.”

Brooks members view the Shared Vision exhibition

Brooks members view the Shared Vision exhibition

Tricky enough to fool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame into believing in faeries and powerful enough to be a propaganda tool everyone should be the wiser of–all the while, photographs have been a legitimate art medium, no matter if the mass public has some form of the technology at their fingertips. Sure, not all Instagram photography is art, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be. So last January along with Shared Vision we staged #MemphisShared, an exhibition of Instagram photography; if for no other reason than to stir up conversation about the state of photography–an endlessly interesting topic.

#MemphisShared

#MemphisShared

It is due to our current exhibition, Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt, that we mention pyramids now. On view through January 18, 2015, this exhibition includes artifacts and animal mummies from Egypt, as well as x-rays and research materials from the Brooklyn Museum. Of course with our city’s namesake pyramids are never far from mind, and the city of Memphis, Tennessee has its own Egyptology experts. In fact, the Institute of Egyptian Art and Anthropology at the University of Memphis received international acclaim with the discovery of a new tomb, a few feet away from Tutankhamen’s tomb, in 2006.

Reenacting Marisol's Mi Mamá y Yo at Community Day

Reenacting Marisol’s Mi Mamá y Yo at Community Day

Men–Nopher, called Memphis by the Greeks, meant, to the early Egyptians, “Good Abode,” and the city of Memphis has been a good abode to the Brooks Museum: the past year brought many changes, and more are coming. In 2016, the museum will have been in Overton Park for 100 years. Part of the museum mission is to bring varied exhibitions to Memphis, and we are proud to have brought the work of Marisol to the city this past summer, a great post-war American artist obscured by history. Chief Curator Marina Pacini saw her career project realized in this exhibition, titled Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper, which traveled to El Museo de Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institute, where it is on view until January 10. Not only did this exhibition introduce Marisol to Memphis, it reintroduced Marisol to the world. The results of this effort can be seen online by searching #MeetMarisol.  

Another major exhibition of 2014 was Dalí: Illustrating the Surreal, a collection of 49 rare book illustrations by the celebrated and sometimes controversial Salvador Dalí. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Miguel de Cervante’s Don Quixote were amongst the tales told through Dalí’s masterful illustrations. We should keep the protagonist of Cervante’s work in mind as we push forward into 2015: Alonso Quixano was an adventurer, a little bit crazy, but whose mission to right the wrongs of the world, restore humanity, and inspire forceful social change, is one we all need to hear right now.

After the Ku Klux Klan burned this cross in front of a Mississippi Delta Freedom House, a civil rights worker transformed it with a painted message.  Tamio Wakayama  Indianola, Mississippi, 1964

After the Ku Klux Klan burned this cross in front of a Mississippi Delta Freedom House, a civil rights worker transformed it with a painted message. Tamio Wakayama Indianola, Mississippi, 1964

With that in mind, this month brings a remarkable opportunity to experience the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of those who lived it. This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement opens to the public on January 14. Over the past few months, Brooks staff members have met with community leaders to develop a way to interpret these photographs in an impactful way that is relevant to now. We invite you to sit in with us on a number of unique opportunities. It is our hope that the exhibition and programs we have planned will help prepare Memphis and the world for a brighter tomorrow.

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