Current Exhibitions




Zina Saro-Wiwa: Did You Know We Taught Them How to Dance?

On view through March 25, 2017
Main Level, East Gallery

Curated by Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art
Co-presented by Krannert Art Museum and Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston

This exhibition is the first solo museum presentation of works by British-Nigerian video artist and filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa, featuring video installations, photographs, and a sound installation produced in the Niger Delta region of southeastern Nigeria from 2013 to 2015. Drawing upon folklore, masquerade traditions, religious practices, food and Nigerian popular aesthetics, Saro-Wiwa’s work shuttles between documentary and performance, testing art’s capacity to transform and to envision new concepts of environment and environmentalism.

Engaging Niger Delta residents both as subjects and collaborators, Saro-Wiwa cultivates strategies of psychic survival and performance, underscoring the complex and expressive ways in which people live in an area historically fraught with the politics of energy, labor and land. Known for decades for corruption and environmental degradation, the Niger Delta is also a verdant place, an abundant food producer as well as provider of crude oil and natural gas to the entire globe. The United States has until recent years been the largest importer of Nigeria’s oil, while Europe and India are now the top destinations. Returning to this contested region—the place of her birth—Saro-Wiwa insinuates herself as a transformative force ingesting and disgorging the stuff of tradition and of psycho-social dynamics to produce new origin narratives. Her new work makes visible the cultural, spiritual and emotional powers propelling the Niger Delta and its connections as a global energy capital.

An accompanying catalogue features recipe-stories by Saro-Wiwa alongside essays by curator Amy L. Powell, environmental cultural studies scholar Stephanie LeMenager, and writer Taiye Selasi, with a conversation between the artist and art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu. Niger Delta historian Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa contributes a guest foreword.

The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. For this presentation, sponsorship was provided in part by the Krannert Art Museum Council. The exhibition is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.



Autumn Knight: In Rehearsal

January 27 – May 14, 2017
Main Level, Gelvin Noel Annex and Light Court

Curated by Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art

Autumn Knight makes performances that reshape perceptions of race, gender, and authority in institutional spaces. Drawing from such disparate fields as dance, psychology, religious studies, and theatre, Knight pays attention to the ways knowledge is produced collectively among her audience members and physically in the body through language, movement, and emotion.

Often gathering black women at the center of the conversation—whether herself as performer-facilitator or members of communities she makes around her—Knight usurps the dynamics of a room with humor and with purpose, enacting absurd situations and offering new ways of thinking and feeling.

For her first solo museum presentation, Knight scrutinizes her past work against the backdrop of a large public university while continuing to craft a research method that is perpetually in rehearsal—always nearly finished and yet constantly being taken up again.

In addition to scheduled public performances throughout the semester, returning museum visitors will be rewarded, for at any moment one might find a person playing the cello, trying on shoes, or singing a chorus.

Originally from Houston, Autumn Knight is based in New York City where she is currently Artist-in-Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Exhibition and performances sponsored in part by the Department of Dance, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Women’s Resources Center, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, Intersections Living-Learning Community, and Krannert Art Museum. Paid for by the Student Cultural Programming Fee.



Enough to Live On: Art from the WPA

January 27 – April 22, 2017
Main Level, Rosann Gelvin Noel Gallery

Curated by Kathryn Koca Polite

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the New Deal, a series of programs that sought recovery and reform from the Great Depression by creating jobs and aiding the unemployed with enough money to live on.

Under the Works Progress Administration, the Federal Art Project (1935–1943) was the largest of the New Deal art programs and focused on all areas of the visual arts—including design, the fine arts, and art education. Thousands of artists were commissioned by the government to create public works that captured the state of the nation at that time, which resulted in prints disseminated throughout the country, hundreds of murals installed in government buildings, and the creation of various community centers.

This exhibition focuses on WPA works—prints, paintings, and sculptures—allocated from the federal government that are currently housed in the museum’s permanent collection.

Sponsored in part by Fox Development Corporation and Fred and Donna Giertz



Land Grant

January 27 – July 8, 2017
Main Level, Contemporary Gallery

Organized by the graduate students of ARTH 546, a practicum in curatorial methods: Alyssa Bralower, Yue Dai, Evin Dubois, Maria Garth, Michael Hurley, Cory Imig, Lilah Leopold, Jenny Peruski, Luis Gonzalo Pinilla, and Allison Rowe
The course was led by Terri Weissman, Associate Professor of Art History, and Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

The year 2017 marks the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the founding of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Land Grant draws from libraries, archives, and collections across campus to propose an expanded field for considering the university—its founding and history, land use practices, and questions of indigeneity—all while assessing the current status of public higher education in the United States. Recognizing the ability of images to both legitimize and contest power, and experimenting with curatorial methods of evidence and inquiry, this exhibition takes stock of where we, as university students, stand today in relation to such questions.

In addition to individual lenders, Land Grant works with materials from Krannert Art Museum, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, University Archives, the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, Ricker Library of Architecture and Art, the Geological Samples Library, the President’s Office, the College of Engineering, and the Champaign County Historical Archives at The Urbana Free Library.

Sponsored in part by Fox Development Corporation




Dynamic Structures: American Abstract Artists

March 2 – May 14, 2017
Main Level, West Gallery

Curated by Kathryn Koca Polite

In 1936, several artists in New York City, who grew tired of the lack of exhibiting opportunities for abstract artists, convened to discuss ways to promote and further the works of abstraction. The American Abstract Artists (AAA) emerged as a diverse group who engaged in various applications of abstraction: dynamic, clear geometry; abstraction influenced by surrealism and expressionism, often with biomorphic elements; and abstraction informed by the natural landscape. Overlooked during the 1930s and 1940s by major institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, the AAA aggressively protested these institutions and instead held their own exhibitions and forums to help garner acceptance of abstract art. The AAA can be seen as a predecessor to the New York School and abstract expressionism.

This exhibition features works from past members of the AAA, including Josef Albers, Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Corazzo, Sidney Gordin, Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, Carl Holty, Karl Knaths, Sol LeWitt, George L. K. Morris, Louise Nevelson, Irene Rice Peirera, Judith Rothschild, Louis Schanker, Charles Green Shaw, Esphyr Slobodkina, David Smith, and Jean Xceron.

Sponsored in part by Fred and Donna Giertz



Light and Movement in Sculpture

January 27 – May 14, 2017
Main Level, Kinkead Gallery

Curated by Amy L. Powell with assistance from doctoral candidate in Art History Hayan Kim

Sculptors in the 1960s and 1970s experimented with light and optical illusion, reflecting mid-century fascination with speed, the materials of technology, and structural systems. Artists and artist-engineers built on previous decades of experimentation by such figures as László Moholy-Nagy and György Kepes, demonstrating artist Willoughby Sharp’s call for “an art of greater energy” to “unite us with the real rhythms of our era.” Systems theorist Jack Burnham, writing in 1968, found in contemporary sculpture the desire to prepare humans for radically new futures, even while many works mesmerize with their seemingly magical properties.

KAM’s small but strong collection of light and kinetic sculpture produced in the United States reflects the museum’s history as a vital participant in the University of Illinois’s Festival of Contemporary Arts (1948–1974), a campus-wide presentation of lectures, performances, and exhibitions by avant-garde artists. Many of these works were purchased after the exhibitions while others were gifts made in recognition of the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration fostered by the university.

Including artworks by: Fletcher Benton, Chryssa, Max Finkelstein, Richard Hunt, Josef Levi, James Libero Prestini, and Earl Reiback.




Encounters: The Arts of Africa

Main Level, African Gallery
Curator: Allyson Purpura

In October 2012, Krannert Art Museum opened Encounters: The Arts of Africa, a renovated gallery dedicated to KAM's African Art collection.

The completely redesigned space invites visitors to see exhibited objects not only as visually compelling works of art in their own right, but also as objects of encounter that can “tell” stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught global histories through which they have journeyed.

The gallery is organized thematically and many displays include touch screens that contain video clips of artist interviews, masquerades, and descriptive vignettes. These bring the “telling” of African stories into the museum experience and draw out resonances among the objects on view.




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