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Students go Against Reason in Faulconer

The new student-curated exhibition features prints from the Anti-Enlightenment movement. Photo by Mary Zheng
The new student-curated exhibition features prints from the Anti-Enlightenment movement. Photo by Mary Zheng
The new student-curated exhibition features prints from the Anti-Enlightenment movement. Photo by Mary Zheng

After a semester of hard work, seven art history students have unveiled their newest exhibition in Faulconer Gallery, “Against Reason: Anti/Enlightenment Prints by Callot, Hogarth, Piranesi and Goya.”

Along with the help of Professor Vanessa Lyon, Art, the exhibition seminar students—Tim McCall, Maria Shevelkina, Dana Sly and Emma Vale (all ’15) and Elizabeth Allen, Mai Pham and Hannah Storch (all ’16)—worked throughout fall semester to curate and write the catalogue for the exhibition. With the help of the College’s Art Collection and Legacies for Iowa, a University of Iowa Museum of Art Collections sharing project, the students were able to showcase more than 30 prints.

According to a news release announcing “Against Reason,” the exhibition “examines the dangers of secularism, nationalism and a scientific method that dismisses rather than exalts the qualities that make us both human and humane.”

The students worked in groups to curate the different artists as teams throughout the process.

“There were two people for Goya, two people for Piranesi, but it was really a collaborative process. Each half of the class was helping each other out,” Sly said. “So Team Hogarth was paired up with Team Callot and then Team Callot-Hogarth was teaming up with Team Piranesi-Goya. It was just a lot of layers and a lot of helping out.”

After learning about the Enlightenment period broadly and then focusing more specifically on individual artists, McCall and the other students made use of the resources available at the College to begin putting together the exhibition.

“It was a lot of fun to look around the print study room and to see what we have,” McCall said. “That was actually my favorite part about the class.”

However, the print selection process was not an easy task.

“Fairly early on we picked our prints,” Sly said. “At some point, we visited the collections and we looked at slides in class, at works that we knew we had and those that we could get on loan. So we ended up getting three of Goya’s ‘Los Capricios’ on loan and Hogarth’s ‘The Reward of Cruelty.’”

According to McCall, there were about 60 prints for Piranesi, the artist his team focused on. But after much thought and work, McCall said that he learned how to take on a very difficult task.

“I guess in doing the research and writing the catalogue and getting all that stuff together, I mean that’s really a different animal than I’ve ever dealt with,” McCall said. “You’re basically trying to load up as much as you possibly can in a short amount of space. We spent weeks on weeks just trying to condense everything down and peer editing just took a lot of time.”

In spite of the time spent on the catalogue, the students were ahead of their schedule by almost eight weeks, which gave them room to improve the exhibition every day. The exhibition is set up to reflect the ideas of the Anti-Enlightenment, giving the viewers a different perspective and way to walk around the exhibition.

“In order to make the exhibition more cohesive, we sort of color-coded it thematically,” McCall said. “The cube is like a room within Faulconer. It’s a separate space but it’s very open. The idea of it was that you would look at a print and you see that it’s red behind it and then you would look around and you would see red spots all around you. Also, you know, Anti-Enlightenment. We didn’t just want people to walk around. We were trying to make it so that people moved around in this sort of crazy, sporadic manner through the show.”

Without Lyon’s help, students said they could not have made the show a success.

“Lyon deserves a bouquet of flowers and lots of music,” Sly said.

The exhibition also displays several prints from artists never before exhibited in Faulconer and the student curators hope audience members enjoy the exhibition and get a chance to explore.

“Ultimately, I hope that you can go multiple times and get something different out of it each time,” Sly said.

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