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Faculty art and four war-themed exhibitions open at Krannert Art Museum

Kitten deck and necklace
Photo courtesy of Billie Jean Theide

Billie Jean Theide, who holds the James Avery Endowed Chair in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, created “OMG kittens kittens kittens” using new old stock (NOS) Congress playing cards and cotton thread.

« Click photo to enlarge

8/15/2014 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts and Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — An exhibition of new works by the University of Illinois School of Art and Design faculty will open Aug. 28 (Thursday) at Krannert Art Museum, along with four war-themed exhibitions, one of which is related to the centenary of World War I. A public reception, with cash bar, will be held 5-7 p.m., and the museum will remain open until 9 p.m.

Goya's War

Francisco Goya y Lucientes “Y son fieras” (And They Are Wild Beasts) uses etching, burnished aquatint, and drypoint. It is from his series of 80 etchings made in response to the Napoleonic invasion of Spain ca. 1811-12. This
piece is courtesy of Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California.

| Photo courtesy of Krannert Art Museum

Billie Jean Theide, who holds the James Avery Endowed Chair in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, uses a feline-themed double deck of playing cards to toy with our natural attraction to what she calls “cuteness” in a piece titled “OMG kittens kittens kittens.” Her creative work combines her passion for collecting with her interests in hybridization, the absurd, and human excess and ornamentation.

“I wanted to remove the element that gave meaning to the image, so I used a round punch to remove the kittens’ eyes. Yes, sad but true,” Theide said. “I felt the eyes made the image ‘cute.’” She stitched the punched discs to form intertwining necklaces to be displayed with the altered card decks.

Brad Tober, a professor of graphic design, will exhibit “Colorigins” – a game that helps developing artists learn to mix and match colors using the digital Sifteo Cubes platform (you can watch a video of Tober’s game here). Though the stated task in the game is to mix paint to match colors, Tober said the true objective goes deeper.

“The process of color mixing engages the player with a variety of concepts in color theory, such as value, saturation, tints, shades, tones, complements, chromatic neutrals, and the relative visual strengths of particular colors,” Tober said. “Mastering the use of color is critical for both artists and designers because it is one of the most prominent tools practitioners have to aid in communicating a message or idea.” Tober plans to have the game available for museum visitors to play in the gallery.

Other faculty members represented in the exhibition include Ryan Griffis, Benjamin Grosser, Chris Kienke, Jorge Lucero, Guen Montgomery and Deke Weaver. The faculty exhibition runs through Sept. 27.

Krannert Art Museum will also open four exhibitions that invite visitors to examine war and conflict through art. One of these, "La Grande Guerre," is presented as part of "The Great War: Experiences, Representations, Effects" — the University of Illinois cross-campus initiative to mark the centenary of World War I.

In “La Grande Guerre,” two dozen lithographic posters published in France during WWI and 20 photographs commissioned by the French Army will be on display. Some of the posters were created by well-known French artists such as Jules Abel Faivre, Maurice Neumont, Atelier Pichon, Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Adolphe Willette; others were issued by organizations as diverse as the American Red Cross, the French War Ministry and French and British Banks. The posters and photos were selected by curators David O’Brien and Pauline Parent from the university’s permanent collection of WWI art, which includes 105 posters and 4,500 photos. Ségolene Le Men, a professor of art history at the University of Paris, will present a talk on “The French Poster and World War I” in the Krannert Art Museum Auditorium on Oct. 1 (Wednesday) at 5:30 p.m.

“Goya’s War: Los Desastres de la Guerra” (The Disasters of War) features the series of 80 etchings that Francisco de Goya y Lucientes made in response to the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and its political aftermath. The installation at Krannert will be divided into five themes – Carnage, Atrocity, Passions of War, Famine and Caprice – and will include the original Spanish captions, translated into English, an assortment of printmaking materials and, for comparison, a bound edition of the etchings series from U. of I.’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The influence of Goya’s “Los Desastres” is obvious in the “Der Krieg” (The War) etching series by the German artist Otto Dix. One of those etchings, “Leuchtkugel Erhellt die Monacu-Ferme” (Flares Illuminate the Monacu Farm), will be displayed in “After the Front Line: Artists Who Served in the World Wars,” selected from Krannert Art Museum’s permanent collection. Curated by Kathryn Koca Polite, this exhibition provides a sense of how war shaped the visions of various artists. Dix volunteered in 1914 as a machine gunner and was involved in trench warfare on both the Western and Eastern fronts. After the war, he became known as an eloquently anti-war artist. “I studied war closely,” Dix once said. “It must be represented realistically, so that it is understood. The artist works so that others can see that such a thing existed.” By the time Hitler came to power, Dix’s art was classified as “degenerate.” He was drafted into the German militia in 1944, and became a prisoner of war in France.

“After the Front Line” also includes art by Max Beckman, Leon Golub, George Grosz, Jack Levine, Henry Moore, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Jacques Villon.

“La Grande Guerre,” “Goya’s War” and “After the Front Line” will be on display through Dec. 23.

“With the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Postwar Years” will be on display through Dec. 23 as the first half of a year-long focus on Japanese printmaking. Emmy Lingscheit, a professor of printmaking; and Robert Tierney, a professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and of Comparative and World Literatures, will discuss “The Creative Print Movement in Japan” on Oct. 2 (Thursday) at 5:30 p.m. at the museum.

Editor's note: For more information, contact Julia Kelly at 217-244-0320; email

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