The Study Gallery

By: Elizabeth Manekin

As is true in lots of encyclopedic collections, much of the artwork in the Ackland was never intended to be in a museum. Made for religious rituals, mass markets, burial sites, and banquet tables, it lives in harmony alongside works that were intended for gallery walls. We collect and combine the gamut as “Art.”

Sammy Baloji Culture Congolese, African, “Kalamata, chief of the Luba against watercolor by Dardenne” 2011:
medium archival digital photograph on Hahnemuhle Paper. 2016.6.

Perhaps my favorite part of my job is teaching and learning about these diverse objects from multiple perspectives. Teaching in the galleries, I regularly engage in lively discussion with students and faculty; in the Study Gallery, I get to put some of those conversations on the wall.

The artwork in the Study Gallery aligns with course objectives from all corners of the University, and its organization often eschews the traditional display categories of country or chronology. I work closely with faculty to determine which works of art will enhance their course and its learning goals. The art might illuminate a cultural context, or push students to consider a familiar concept from a new perspective. Works of art may develop new competencies, of empathy or visual literacy for example, or might be a platform for further research, reflection, and creative response. With two eight-week installations per semester, there’s always something new to see and consider on view.

This semester is no exception. In our first rotation, for example, graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program visited the Ackland’s Study Gallery on multiple occasions as they investigated experiential learning. Students examined the different experiences depicted in the artwork and reflected upon their own experiences of looking at and talking about art. As students looked repeatedly, they evaluate the concepts that define experiential learning and how they relate to their work in the classroom.

Also on view were works for the Art History courses “Introduction to Architecture” and “Art and Sports,” which presented multiple representations of building and athletes, respectively. Students in a Renaissance history course used works of art on view in the Study Gallery to learn to read visual and material primary sources. A Women’s and Gender Studies class analyzed photography and thought

about issues of identity. Graduate students in musicology explored the influence of Russian refugees on global artistic production in the wake of the Revolution in 1917. This last course coincided with a graduate-organized conference, and their scholarship was accessible in the gallery.

Egon Schiele, Austrian, “Church and Houses at Modling, near Vienna,” 1918: black chalk and gouache. 58.1.238

Anyone of these Study Gallery installations is engaging on its own, but I also love the challenge of figuring out the ways in which these separate courses are in dialogue with one another. This semester, the theme of how we form identities, as individuals and as nations, is an undercurrent. In what ways do both the buildings around us and the sports teams we root for shape our sense of self in relation to the world outside? How do we draw the boundaries of “otherness”? What are the roots of our faith in reason and logic? What role do we play in shaping our own identities? These are big, difficult questions, helped along by the experience of looking closely at what is sometimes a small and specific thing. For all visitors, the Study Gallery is a window into the classrooms at Carolina and an invitation to ask these questions on your own.

I invite you to come to the Ackland’s second-floor Study Gallery. Look closely and think big. Pick up a syllabus. Discuss issues with a friend. The Study Gallery is for everyone!

The Study Gallery – A Window onto Teaching and Research

Portions of this essay were originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 13 August 2015.

MelancoliaThe start of a new academic year is always invigorating, and my thoughts are on the return of our Study Gallery on the second floor, one of the Ackland’s extraordinary programs. Over the course of the academic year, the Study Gallery will contain 36 short-term small exhibitions that accompany curricular teaching happening all across this wonderful University (six new installations reinstalled every six weeks).

There are always surprises in store here—from little-seen works to unconventional juxtapositions. You can see a socio-critical image by contemporary photographer Danny Lyon next to Albrecht Dürer’s masterpiece print Melancolia (part of the installation supporting a course on “Abnormal Psychology”). Also on view in the Gallery are nineteenth-century photographs of Turkish subjects (amongst the works for a course on “Gender in the Middle East”), a captivating ancient Egyptian cat amulet—surely, at only 1 centimeter tall, one of the smallest works in the Ackland collection (one of about two dozen works on display for “Egyptian Archaeology”)—and many other interesting pieces of art. Continue reading

Kehinde Wiley and Glenn Ligon at the Ackland

In conjunction with Dr. John Bowles’ ARTH 287 and ARTH 387 classes, six works by contemporary African-American artists are on view now through Sunday, May 10th, in the Study Gallery on the second floor of the Ackland. Perhaps the most eye-popping in its resoluteness and arresting color is Idrissa Ndiaye, a study in oil on paper by Kehinde Wiley.

WileyUndoubtedly, Wiley is having a cultural moment: the 37-year-old artist is enjoying his first retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, and numerous examples of his work can be spotted on the set of Fox’s breakout new show “Empire.” Figurative, dramatic, and bombastically colorful, his art has all the necessary ingredients to be readily accessible to modern audiences.

Yet despite its immediate vivacity, below the surface Wiley’s art is deeply confrontational. He deals directly with stereotypical conceptions of African and African-American identity, both in modern culture and the history of art. His works usually follow a similar formula: a black figure, dressed in modern street clothes, stands heroically against a sumptuously decorative background. The figure gazes directly down at the viewer with an air of impassiveness and regality as baroque ornamentation swirls around him. Continue reading