Hive is a site-specific sculpture and sound commission by Nancy Davidson and Lakshmi Ramgopal, two artists with distinctive practices collaborating for the first time at Krannert Art Museum.
Hive is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Classics Everywhere initiative of the Society for Classical Studies. Co-sponsored by the Department of Classics, the Center for Advanced Study, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and the School of Art + Design Visitors Committee.
On view until spring 2021, Hive is housed within and responds to the architecture of KAM’s 1988 Kinkead Pavilion, a postmodern addition to the museum designed by architect Larry Booth. The portico presents the museum as a temple, with a Midwestern mash-up that makes reference to the ancient world through the structure’s large scale, classicizing columns, and inscribed frieze.
Hive features two inflatable sculptures by Davidson, each approaching twenty feet tall and lit from within, filling the portico. Ramgopal’s sound installation is housed in the same space, involving a range of vocalizations experimenting with breath—partly composed and partly randomized by a computer algorithm so that the sound never repeats.
Davidson and Ramgopal drew their inspiration from Artemis of Ephesus, the multi-breasted cult goddess of the ancient Mediterranean. Davidson’s sculptures exaggerate Artemis’s bodily qualities: her multiple breasts a sign of fertility, possibly in the form of a beehive. Hive’s sculptures incorporate a braid emerging from the top of each piece and continuing to the pavilion floor to suggest caryatids, a feature of ancient Greek, Roman, and later classicizing architecture, in which women with braided hair provide physical support for a building. Along with Ramgopal’s soundscape, Hive indicates feminized bodies as unpredictable organisms with textures and reverberations that behave through and despite the structures seeking to contain them.
Hive uses KAM’s Egyptian revival architecture to situate questions of gender identity, bodily and affective feeling, and racialized interpretations of classical material in a university art museum. Davidson’s bright pink and red sculptures and Ramgopal’s musical references color our current-day interpretation and provide a platform to bridge conversations among programs at Illinois including Classics, Gender & Women’s Studies, LGBTQ studies, Architecture, Art History, and Ethnomusicology.
To expand and comment upon the project’s questions about the legacies of the ancient world, the curators have developed a collections installation in the adjacent Kinkead Gallery, Artists Interpret the Ancient World, featuring paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from KAM, along with plaster casts and other objects on loan from the Spurlock Museum, from antiquity to the present day.
Listen to a sample of the exhibition audio | Lakshmi Ramgopal on Soundcloud
Listen to an interview with the artists and curators on Illinois Public Media's The 21st | February 5, 2020 Krannert Art Museum's Hive Exhibit
Co-curated by Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics
Lighting design: Niles Fromm
Fabrication: Landmark Creations
Additional vocals: Violet Eckles-Jordan, Nivedita Gunturi, Rosé Hernandez, Olivia Hickner, Lucy Little, Erica Miller, Shakthi Ramgopal
Sound technician: Alex Inglizian