Fragments, Forms, and the Future: Three Modern Masterpieces from the Collection of Sam Rose

Featuring works by Fernand Léger (1881-1955), Stuart Davis (1892-1964), and Romare Bearden (1911-1988), this special installation of three masterpieces of European and American avant-garde art allows us to experience ways in which artists have deployed fragmentary images of the contemporary world, reconstituting them into balanced compositions that speak to an imagined ideal. Spanning half a century, these works evoke in turn the purity of classical harmony, the vibrant energy of American modernity, and the cultural richness of a Southern heritage. Linking them is the freedom of a collage aesthetic that is emblematic of modern art in the last century.

The Ackland gratefully acknowledges these generous loans from the distinguished private collection of Sam Rose.

(Canceled) In Vulnerability: Selected Works by the MFA Class of 2020

As University officials continue to monitor the evolving situation related to COVID-19, and to promote the safety of our visitors and staff, the decision has been made out of an abundance of caution to cancel this exhibition.


In Vulnerability explores the impacts of bodies and environments on one another. This concern is articulated through works by five artists who interrogate the ways humanity shapes and is shaped by forces as disparate as the gaze, infrastructure, and our planet. These tensions aid in the artists’ efforts to address concerns including illness, gentrification, and climate change. This exhibition presents vulnerability — too often perceived as weakness — instead as an essential component of our agency and collective survival. Participating artists are the five UNC-Chapel Hill Class of 2020 Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art candidates: Cassidy Kulhanek, Sally Ann McKinsey, Chloé Rager, Natalie Strait, and Emily Hobgood Thomas.

Guest curator Saba Taj is a visual artist based in Durham, North Carolina, and a 2016 graduate from the MFA program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Currently, Taj is the 2019-20 Post-MFA Fellow in the Documentary Arts, as part of the Documentary Diversity Project at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. She is the former Director of The Carrack Modern Art.

Image credit:
Chloé Rager, American, born 1994, Blonde Winch (detail), 2019, concrete, brass-plated chain, and hair, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist.

(Canceled) Drawing Attention

As University officials continue to monitor the evolving situation related to COVID-19, and to promote the safety of our visitors and staff, the decision has been made out of an abundance of caution to cancel this exhibition.


Works on paper have always constituted a major collecting focus of the Museum. Over the past dozen years, the Ackland has acquired over 525 European and American drawings and watercolors. This exhibition celebrates this activity by presenting a small selection from this trove, arranged here into small thematic groupings.  Preference has been given to works that have not been recently exhibited at the Ackland and to those that are not slated for exhibition in the near future.

 

Image credit:
Chris Johanson, American, born 1968, Untitled (Filling Up Time), 2012, acrylic on paper, 52 x 50 in. (132.1 x 127 cm). Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund,
2014.9.

Instruments of Divination in Africa: Works from the Collection of Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, Ph.D.

This special installation shows sculptures and other objects used by diviners in some Central and West African cultures.
Divination is a practice that enables people to communicate with their gods, ancestors, and spirits. By bridging the earthly and spiritual realm, divination enables these beings to provide counsel to the living, to identify the causes of evil and harm, to cure, and to protect.
Some instruments used in these rituals can be humble, others are fine sculptures of substantial aesthetic power. Some are figurative, some involve movement and manipulation. Some are purely visual, while others involve music and sound. The examples presented here can only hint at the full range of objects and practices across the African continent. All these objects would have been aids to the diviners themselves as they seek insights into the problems, concerns, and questions of their clients.


Unidentified artist, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lobala culture, Miniature slit drum, early 20th century, wood, 20 x 8 in. Lent by Rhonda Morgan Wilkerson, Ph.D., L2019.28.9.

Lost and Found: Stories for Vernacular Photographs

     

Since 2017, the Ackland Art Museum has worked with noted UNC alumnus and collector Robert E. Jackson (MA, ’78) to assemble a collection of vernacular photography. Vernacular photographs are those that are made by individuals, typically presumed to be non-artists, for a wide variety of reasons, including snapshots of everyday subjects taken for personal pleasure. When collected, vernacular photographs typically lack contextual information—basic identifiers such as the names of the subjects, locations, and photographers, as well as the dates the photos were taken—and are, therefore, often discussed and appreciated solely in terms of technique, aesthetic composition, and their amateur or “outsider” status. Lost and Found: Stories for Vernacular Photographs flips this script, inviting the public to supply narratives for the exhibited snapshots. Just as these vernacular photographs themselves—relegated to flea markets, thrift shops, and eBay—are rediscovered by avid collectors and institutions, so, too, can the lost contexts and narratives of these photos be “found” by newly created stories and captions.

Of the seventy photographs in the exhibition—their formats as wide-ranging as cyanotypes and Polaroids—a selection of twenty were part of a “context contest” that was open to the public in advance of the exhibition opening. Once the exhibition opened, individuals were encouraged to submit captions and short stories in response to all 70 of the images online or in the gallery. Selected captions and stories were displayed alongside their generative photographs, with an invitation to all museum visitors to add their own responses to these works. While the original stories behind them may never be known, Lost and Found invites viewers to celebrate the potential of these vernacular photographs to stimulate our collective storytelling imagination.

Click here to read the winning submissions!

This exhibition is funded in part by a grant from Arts Everywhere.

Click on the arrow above to hear about the exhibition.

Click here to watch a video story about the exhibition on Spectrum News.

LOST AND FOUND Public Programs

2nd Friday ArtWalk
December 13, 2019

LOST AND FOUND CAPTION AND Story Contest

The contest closed on January 5, 2020. You may continue to submit your entries to be posted in the gallery through January 12, 2020. Click here to read the winning submissions!

Contest Instructions:

Select one photo from this list of 70 (also pictured below) that will be displayed in the exhibition, then write a photo caption (up to 50 words) or a story (50-300 words) to bring the photo to life! There are no restrictions on the form or content of your story, so be creative! You are welcome to submit more than one caption or story.

While we respect the creative autonomy of all artists, the Ackland reserves the right to edit submissions for propriety.

Deadlines:

Early bird deadline: December 8, 2019, 11:59 p.m.

Submissions before the early bird deadline will be considered for the early bird grand prize, AND they will also continue to be considered for all other prizes awarded at the conclusion of the exhibition. Early bird submissions are also the only way to guarantee that your submission is displayed within the exhibition galleries throughout the entire run!

Final deadline: January 5, 2020, 11:59 p.m.

Rolling submissions will be accepted through the end of the exhibition to be considered for all other prize categories. We will update the gallery displays with new stories as we receive them.

Prizes:

Early bird grand prize: $200 credit to the Museum Store

Twenty-four prizes to be awarded at the end of the exhibition:
In categories for under 18, 18+, UNC student, and UNC affiliate
For each of 2 submission formats: photo captions (fewer than 50 words) and stories (50-300 words)

1st place: $100 credit to the Museum Store

2nd place: Individual membership to the Ackland

Honorable mention: A copy of Fortune Smiles: The Tyche Foundation Gift, a collection catalogue including creative responses to the Ackland’s collection by NC author Allan Gurganus

Notifications:

Authors who submit before the early bird deadline will be notified of the outcome of their submission on December 13. Authors who submit before the final deadline will be notified by January 10.

Photo Gallery:

Lost and Found includes a total of 70 photographs. We displayed 20 of them here in advance of the exhibition opening for online early submissions. We will continue to accept submissions relating to all 70 photographs online and in the gallery through January 5!

 


Image credits:

1: Unidentified artist, American, Group of Men Fighting, 1890s or 1900s?, cyanotype, 5 5/16 × 4 5/16 in. (13.5 × 10.9 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.8.

2: Unidentified artist, American, Woman Sticking Out Tongue, 1950s, gelatin silver print, 4 1/2 × 2 3/4 in. (11.4 × 7 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.13.

3: Unidentified artist, American, Women at the Zoo, c. 1909, gelatin silver print, 4 1/8 × 5 1/4 in. (10.5 × 13.3 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.9.

4: Unidentified artist, American, Children with Photo in Hand, 1980s, chromogenic color print, 3 3/8 × 3 1/4 in. (8.6 × 8.3 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.18.

5: Unidentified artist, American, Girl in Cinderella Costume, 1960s?, color photographic print, 3 13/16 × 4 11/16 in. (9.7 × 11.9 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.24.

6: Unidentified artist, American, People in Car, 1940s?, gelatin silver print, 3 7/8 × 5 1/2 in. (9.9 × 13.9 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.14.

7: William T. Ross, American, active 1880s–1890s, A Group of Seven Women Eating Cherries, 1880s-90s, cabinet card photograph, 4 1/4 × 6 1/2 in. (10.8 × 16.5 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2019.33.10.

8: Unidentified artist, American, Boys Sleeping, 1920s, gelatin silver print, 3 3/16 × 4 1/4 in. (8.1 × 10.8 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.1.

9: Whalen Photographic Studio, American, active late 19th to early 20th century, Gentleman of the Jury, late 19th to early 20th century, cabinet card photograph, 4 1/4 × 6 1/2 in. (10.8 × 16.5 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2019.33.27.

10: F. Lewis, American, active late 19th to early 20th century, Photographs of a Woman and Man Spliced Together, 1880s or 1890s?, gelatin silver print on carte-de-visite, 4 5/8 × 2 15/16 in. (11.7 × 7.4 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.1.

11: Unidentified artist, American, Double Exposure of a Man and a Group of Women, late 1980s/early 1990s, color photographic print, 4 7/8 × 3 7/16 in. (12.4 × 8.7 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.19.

12. Frank Wendt, American, active c. 1899, Man with Three Legs, c. 1899, cabinet card photograph, 6 7/16 × 4 1/4 in. (16.4 × 10.8 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2019.33.33.

13: Unidentified artist, American, Men Climbing Smoke Stacks, 1930s, gelatin silver print, 3 3/8 × 2 3/8 in. (8.6 × 6 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.4.

14: Charles A. Saylor, American, 1838–1921, Portrait of a Dog, 1880s-90s, cabinet card photograph, 6 7/16 × 4 3/16 in. (16.4 × 10.6 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2019.33.47.

15: Unidentified artist, American, Girl Throwing Football, 1971, color photographic print, 3 7/8 × 5 7/16 in. (9.9 × 13.8 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.27.

16: Unidentified artist, American, Man Blowing Bubble Gum, 1960s?, gelatin silver print, 3 1/4 × 4 1/4 in. (8.3 × 10.8 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.26.

17: Unidentified artist, American, Woman and Mirror, 1940s, gelatin silver print, 4 1/2 × 2 3/4 in. (11.4 × 7 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.7.

18: Unidentified artist, American, Portrait of a Woman, 1940s?, hand-tinted gelatin silver print, 4 7/8 × 3 3/8 in. (12.4 × 8.6 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.17.

19: Unidentified artist, American, Couple Wearing Swimming Masks, 1940s/early 1950s, gelatin silver print, 4 1/2 × 2 3/4 in. (11.4 × 7 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2017.24.11.

20: Unidentified artist, American, Group with a Snowman, 1890s or 1900s?, cyanotype, 4 5/8 × 4 1/8 in. (11.7 × 10.4 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ackland Fund, 2018.23.7.

Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love

Yayoi Kusama is one of the most admired of all contemporary artists. Her “Infinity Rooms,” mirrored and specially lit environments, have recently been a premier attraction for art lovers all over the world. This exhibition presents the distinguished collection of James Keith Brown ’84 and Eric Diefenbach to explore other aspects of her oeuvre, with a special concentration on the early works on paper of the 1950s, a full range of intimate “dot paintings” and “net paintings,” examples of her provocative sculpture and multi-media work, and one tabletop mirror box.

Click HERE to read the press release.

Click HERE to see publicity images.

Click HERE to listen to the radio commercial.

Guided Tours

Guided Tours of Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love and Toriawase: A Special Installation of Modern Japanese Art and Ceramics. Free; no registration required.

Select Weekdays | 1:30 p.m.

February 5, Feb 14, Feb 20, Feb 26

March 5, Mar 13, Mar 18, Mar 26

April 3, Apr 8, Apr 9, Apr 10

PUBLIC PROGRAMS 

2nd Friday ArtWalk
February 14, 2020 | 5 – 9 p.m.

See Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love during our 2nd Friday evening hours! Throughout the night, experience Kusama-inspired modern dance performances choreographed by Killian Manning and screenings of Kusama’s 1967 experimental film Self Obliteration (23 mins).

Free; no RSVP required.

Book Discussion with Carolina Public Humanities
Friday, March 13, 2020 | 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Museum open until 9 p.m. for 2nd Friday ArtWalk

“The Convenient Spot: Patterns and Repetition in Japanese Art and Literature at the Ackland”
Register for a book discussion program with Carolina Public Humanities that pairs Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape called Love with Sayaka Murata’s award-winning short novel Convenience Store Woman. The discussion of the book and a look at the art will be facilitated by UNC lecturer Yuko Kato and Ackland Director of Education and Interpretation Carolyn Allmendinger.
$30 per person (includes a copy of the book and light refreshments), Register HERE!

Dance in the Galleries: Kusama Pop-Up
Sunday, March 15, 2020 | 2 p.m.

An afternoon of pop-up dance performances inside of and inspired by Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love, choreographed by Killian Manning.

Connect the Dots on Arts Everywhere Day
Friday, April 3, 2020

Experience Yayoi Kusama’s provocative and performative side as polka dotted pop-up activities infiltrate UNC’s campus during Arts Everywhere Day, a campus celebration of global arts.

Kids and Families

Family and Friends Sunday
February 23, 2020 | 2 – 5 p.m.

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love and Toriawase: A Special Installation of Modern Japanese Art and Ceramics, choreographer Killian Manning has planned an interactive afternoon of site-specific, art-inspired dance in the galleries. Visitors of all ages will be invited to join dancers in movement and dance in response to the art on view.

Art Adventures
Select Saturdays | 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.
Hands-on art-making classes for 6-9 year-olds; register at ackland.org

Saturday, February 8, 2020
Kusama-Inspired Tote Bags

10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 14, 2020
Toriawase-Inspired Mobiles

Registration will open in February 2020.

ACKLAND FILM FORUM

The Patterned Screen: Rhythm and Repetition in Contemporary Asian Cinema
Co-sponsored by the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of English and Comparative Literature

Screenings held at Varsity Theatre | 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted*
Tickets $7 per person; free with UNC One Card

Monday, February 3, 2020
Paprika
(Dir. Kon Satoshi, 2006, Japan)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 | *Ackland Art Museum | 5:30 p.m.
Ackland Film Forum Talk: “Intermedial Feeling: How Kon Satoshi Animates the Self”
Thomas Lamarre (Middle Eastern and Asian Studies, Duke University)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Mother
(Dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2009, South Korea)

Monday, March 16, 2020
The Grandmaster
(Dir. Wong Kar-wai, 2013, Hong Kong)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Ash is Purest White
(Dir. Zhangke Jia, 2018)

 


Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love is supported in part by Bank of America.
Bank of America logo

Image:
Yayoi Kusama, Japanese, born 1929, Untitled, 1967, oil on masonite, 16 x 18 in. (40.6 x 45.7 cm). Collection of James Keith Brown ‘84 and Eric Diefenbach.

Toriawase: A Special Installation of Modern Japanese Art and Ceramics

Toriawase is a Japanese concept that loosely means to choose and combine objects with exquisite care. This special installation approaches the combination of modern art and ceramics in this spirit, aiming less for a historical or scholarly approach and more for an intuitive, experiential orchestration of relationships and correspondences. Modern and contemporary Japanese painting and sculpture are not often displayed or considered alongside ceramics of the same period. The exhibition draws on the Ackland’s holdings, as well as three major private collections: James Keith Brown ’84 and Eric Diefenbach, Mina Levin and Ronald Schwarz, and Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz.

This special installation has been organized by Peter Nisbet, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, and Nathan Marzen, Head of Exhibition Design and Installation, with the assistance of Dr. Daniele Lauro, a recent graduate from the PhD program in the History Department at UNC-Chapel Hill and 2019 Richard Bland Fellow at the Ackland Art Museum.

MEDIA

Click HERE to read the press release.

Click HERE to listen to the radio commercial.

Click HERE to see promotional images and credits.

Guided Tours

Guided Tours of Toriawase: A Special Installation of Modern Japanese Art and Ceramics and Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called LoveFree; no registration required.

Select Weekdays | 1:30 p.m.

February 5, Feb 14, Feb 20, Feb 26

March 5, Mar 13, Mar 18, Mar 26

April 3, 8, 9, 10

Kids and Families

Family and Friends Sunday
March 22, 2020 | 2 – 5 p.m.

Inspired by Toriawase: A Special Installation of Modern Japanese Art and Ceramics and Yayoi Kusama: Open the Shape Called Love, choreographer Killian Manning has planned an interactive afternoon of site-specific, art-inspired dance in the galleries. Visitors of all ages will be invited to join dancers in movement and dance in response to the art on view.

Art Adventures
Select Saturdays | 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.
Hands-on art-making classes for 6-9 year-olds; register at ackland.org

Saturday, February 8, 2020
Kusama-Inspired Tote Bags

Saturday, March 14, 2020
Toriawase-Inspired Mobiles

ACKLAND FILM FORUM

The Patterned Screen: Rhythm and Repetition in Contemporary Asian Cinema
Co-sponsored by the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of English and Comparative Literature

Screenings held at Varsity Theatre | 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted*
Tickets $7 per person; free with UNC One Card

Monday, February 3, 2020
Paprika
(Dir. Kon Satoshi, 2006, Japan)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 | *Ackland Art Museum | 5:30 p.m.
Ackland Film Forum Talk: “Intermedial Feeling: How Kon Satoshi Animates the Self”
Thomas Lamarre (Middle Eastern and Asian Studies, Duke University)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Mother
(Dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2009, South Korea)

Monday, March 16, 2020
The Grandmaster
(Dir. Wong Kar-wai, 2013, Hong Kong)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Ash is Purest White
(Dir. Zhangke Jia, 2018, China)

 

 


Akiyama Yō, Japanese, born 1953, Untitled, MV-155, 2015, unglazed stoneware with silver coating, 9 5/8 x 22 3/8 x 15 inches. Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection.

All the Rembrandt Drawings!

To mark the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn’s death in 1669, the Ackland Art Museum is displaying its complete holdings of the artist’s drawings publicly for the first time for just two weeks. The seven drawings, which were donated in 2017 as part of the landmark Peck Collection gift, showcase Rembrandt’s drawing style and technique over the course of his career, revealing his virtuosic flair, keen insight, and eye for detail. Created over a twenty-year period from about 1635 to 1656, the drawings depict biblical and genre scenes, figure studies, and the Dutch landscape.

This special presentation of Rembrandt’s work highlights the Ackland as the only public university art museum in the United States to own a collection of the artist’s drawings and places the Museum among many other institutions worldwide, from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi, that are celebrating Rembrandt and his art this year.

Click on the arrow above to hear about the exhibition.

Click HERE to read the press release.

Click HERE for an exhibition checklist.

Click here for a video playlist.

All the Rembrandt Drawings!  PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Looking Over Rembrandt’s Shoulder: A Discussion of the Peck Collection Drawings
Featuring Dana Cowen and Robert Fucci
Oct 11, 2019 | 5:00 PM, during the 2nd Friday ArtWalk

Dana Cowen, Sheldon Peck Curator for European and American Art before 1950, and Robert Fucci, Peck Collection Research Fellow will participate in an energetic conversation about Rembrandt’s renowned skill as a draftsman and his impact on the art world.

Free and open to the public. RSVP here.

All the Rembrandt Drawings!  Guided Tours

Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 1:30 p.m. (and 2:00 p.m., if the earlier tour fills):

October 4
October 9, 10, 11
October 16, 17, 18

Sundays at 2:30 p.m.:

October 6
October 13
October 20

First come, first served; space is limited to 15 visitors per tour.

All the Rembrandt Drawings!  Private Tours Available

Community groups may request a free, private, guided tour of All the Rembrandt Drawings (or any Ackland exhibition). Click here to request a tour for your group.

 


Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Noli Me Tangere, c. 1655-56, pen and brown ink with touches of brown wash on paper, 8 9/16 × 7 5/16 in. (21.8 × 18.5 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.68.

Recent Acquisitions of Islamic Art

The Ackland recently launched a major initiative to build its collection of art from the Islamic world. A small exhibition, presented in conjunction with She Who Tells a Story, will showcase seven recent purchases, including calligraphic manuscripts, textiles, metalwork and an architectural fragment all dating from the 8th century CE to the 17th century.

There will be one rotation of the textiles and Qur’anic manuscripts on Friday, November 22, midway through the show.

In the future these artworks will be juxtaposed with other items in the collection, where they will offer rich comparisons.

 

Click here to read a discussion with Museum director Katie Ziglar about the new acquisitions.

 

Recent Acquisitions of Islamic Art PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Family and Friends Sunday
22 September 2019 | 2-5 PM

 


Unidentified artist, probably Iraqi, Baghdad, Jalayirid dynasty, 1336–1432, Leaf from the “5 Surahs” Qur’anic Album, c. 1370, ink and gold on paper, 17 × 13 3/4 in. (43.2 × 35 cm). Special Acquisition Fund, 2019.16.1.

ART& Intergalactic Soul, “Project LHAXX”

ART& Intergalactic Soul, Project LHAXX

As its newest temporary, site-specific commission in ART&, the Ackland presents Project LHAXX, a mixed-media experience by Intergalactic Soul. Intergalactic Soul describes the Afrofuturistic collaborative made up of Charlotte-based visual artists Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry and Durham-based performance artist Quentin Talley. Their work broadly focuses on presenting contemporary conversations about American black experiences, using the aesthetic and conceptual prisms of popular science fiction and comics to chronicle the various adventures of their fictional protagonists Astro and Pluto.

A mural of imagined Afrofuturist hieroglyphics and neon symbols inspired by the artists’ cultural traditions floats against a stark black background. Alongside, a monitor depicts spaceship schematics inspired by the forms of ceremonial masks found in the Dogon culture of West Africa. The artists unlock Project LHAXX’s “cosmic message” for viewers through content accessed via the free augmented reality application Artivive. The resulting immersive experience invites us to consider both the forces in society that allow for the absence and erasure of certain cultural histories and also ways in which those losses may be mitigated.

Project LHAXX takes its inspiration from Henrietta Lacks (American, 1920 – 1951), a young African-American tobacco farmer who sought treatment for cervical cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Unknown to Lacks, who eventually succumbed to her disease, her cells were saved following a biopsy and studied by researchers. In an example of scientific fact proving as potentially exceptional as any idea broached within science fiction, they soon found that her cells were the first “immortal” cell line that could reproduce indefinitely and be utilized in countless research applications, being especially noted for helping to develop the polio vaccine. These cells were for decades only attributed and known as “HeLa” cells until Henrietta Lacks’s role was explicitly acknowledged and popularized in the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010). Her story feeds into Intergalactic Soul’s larger Afrofuturist goal: using history to imagine a future with black people actively involved and respected.

In describing their formative thoughts behind Project LHAXX, Kiser and Woodberry write, “The vast expanses of outer space can feel like nothingness, an absence of something that is both optimistic and pessimistic. Space can represent the ‘lack of,’ or it can represent potential. In this case, it represents the uncertainty and identity crisis that comes with growing up as a black, African American child. Not having a history, or being able to trace your ancestry. Kept in the dark about your heroes and heroines. To survive in the void … never seeing your own reflection. Yet to find your genius … your worth … yourself. To develop a culture, a community, and a language.”

During 2nd Friday ArtWalk on September 13, Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry will present an artist talk at 6 p.m. at the Ackland, followed by a 7:30 performance by Quentin Talley and the Soul Providers.

Marcus Kiser’s work draws inspiration from a broad range of sources ranging from classical art to comic books and graffiti. A Charlotte native, he is an artist and graphic designer who is comfortable in an equally broad range of media, from studio art to books, product design, and three-dimensional printing. His work pulls from mass media and a collective urban-based conscience, heavily influenced by current social and political issues. Kiser has recently done work with Jordan Brand and Adidas, and he is currently the creative director of orthopedic designs for UNYQ, a company that specializes in 3D-printed prosthetics and medical wearables.

Jason Woodberry is a digital illustration and mixed media artist. With a focus on software development and multimedia, Woodberry’s work has been featured in the 2014 Miami Art Basel, Jordan Hyper-tee program, hotelier La Maison Champs Elysees’ Parisian ad campaign, and more. In 2016, alongside Marcus Kiser, Woodberry was awarded a nine-month residency at the McColl Center for Art & Innovation. He has been included in the 2014/15 Arts & Science Council and Adams Outdoor Advertising ArtPop initiative. In addition to Woodberry’s fine art pursuits, his design and technical expertise is applied to his work as a developer and specialist in IT project management.

Quentin Talley is an accomplished poet, actor, director, and producer. He is the inaugural recipient of the 2012 LeadershipU Fellowship for emerging theater professionals, administered by Theater Communications Group and funded by The Andrew Mellon Foundation. Quentin is also the Founder and Artistic Director of OnQ Performing Arts in Charlotte, NC. OnQ is a non-profit professional theater dedicated to producing classic, contemporary, and original performance works that reflect the black experience. As a solo artist, Quentin recently released a new album entitled, #FreedomDay: A Musical Reparations Mixtape by The Talented Tenth of Mr. Talley.

Additional collaborators for the Project LHAXX installation include beatmaker Daryl Donald and band members of Quentin Talley and the Soul Providers.

Click on the arrow above to hear artist Marcus Kiser talk about the exhibition.

Click here to read a Q&A with the artists.

Project LHAXX Public Programs 

2nd Friday ArtWalk | Open ’til 9 PM

  • 6 PM: Artist talk with Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry
  • 7:30 PM: Music and spoken word performance by Quentin Talley and the Soul Providers

  This program is supported by the Orange County Arts Commission.


Image courtesy of Marcus Kiser.