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The Scarlet & Black

Bones in The Burling basement

“Bare Bones” is an exhibition of satirical works, mostly prints, from the 16th century to the present. Curated by Helen Lewandowski ’12 and hung in the Burling Library Art Gallery, located in the library’s basement, the show examines themes of humor, grotesquerie and absurdity. It further demonstrates how these themes expose societal ills as employed by master printmakers from Bruegel and Daumier to more contemporary artists like Picasso, Kara Walker and William Kentridge.

Accompanied by a beautiful catalog, more fully explaining various interpretations of each work and how they fit together as a cohesive whole, “Bare Bones” utilizes the rather dreary and awkward space of the Burling Gallery to enliven the library and provide relief for anyone happening through the basement while studying.

Lewandowski chose the 17 works of art for various reasons—both to exhibit recent acquisitions like the Diane Victor piece “The Rape of Africa” from 2009, and to display works that don’t usually get much sunlight.  For example, Enrique Chagoya’s piece “Illegal Alien’s Guide to Existentialism or My Private Border Patrol”, which features prominently on the cover of her catalog, has not been exhibited once since it was acquired in 2007.
In other cases, Lewandowski chose works by artists who get a lot of attention for other pieces, but whose particular pieces are not usually displayed. The Kara Walker and Goya both fall into this category.

“Bare Bones” is the culmination of a Faulconer Gallery internship Lewandowski participated in to create an independent exhibition, with the help of Tilly Woodward, Curator of Academic and Public Outreach. Lewandowski has also worked in the Print and Drawing Study Room for three years and in that time has come to know the collection at Grinnell very well.

“I’ve organized the works somewhat thematically to encourage viewers to find their own connections between works,” Lewandowski said. “I’m a firm believer that it’s very important to first look at art without external interpretation.”

And by bringing the works out of the collection for everyone to see them, Lewandowski provides a very special opportunity. Although many of the works are digitized online, seeing them in person is an entirely different experience. The Chagoya, for example, has a distinct materiality to it and reflects light in a way that is totally lost digitally.
At her gallery talk and reception on Thursday, Lewandowski spoke briefly about “Bare Bones”: “I’ve become pretty familiar with the collection and the stronger pieces (in my opinion) in the collection, the artists that have a good representation in the collection. From the top of my head, I could give you five artists who I associate most with the Grinnell collection.”

These artists—Francisco Goya, William Kentridge, Kara Walker, Jiri Anderle and Enrique Chagoya—are therefore represented in her exhibition, making “Bare Bones” a unique, Grinnellian exhibition.

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