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Curators hope visitors to exhibition at Krannert Art Museum have a blast

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor

Click photo to enlarge

© Adam Cvijanovic, courtesy of the artist and Bellwether Gallery, New York

Adam Cvijanovic
"Suspension of Disbelief," 2007
Flashe and Latex on Tyvek
Approximately 216 x 216 inches
The West Collection, Oaks, Pennsylvania


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Borrowing a phrase from the popular 1970s television program “Good Times,” a new exhibition opening Jan. 25 at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Art Museum could be described as “dyn-o-mite!”

Although an investigation of exploding objects may at first glance appear to be an unlikely or out-of-context theme for an art exhibition, curators of “Blown Away” suspect viewers of all ages and backgrounds may be drawn to its content. That’s because, they believe, the exhibition content reflects the dominant culture’s deeply rooted yet somewhat inexplicable interest in explosions of all kinds.

“Serving as the visual focus of Hollywood blockbuster films and television news stories pertaining to the current war in Iraq, explosions have become a part of popular culture,” according to co-curators Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox. “A healthy fascination that begins with a childhood fireworks display becomes an uncomfortable attraction to the more disturbing display of car crashes and bomb detonations.”

Explosions, they say, can be “simultaneously unnerving and beautiful.”

“As subjects, they offer an extreme image through which artists can convey powerful anti-war sentiments, provide straightforward observations of an action frozen in time, or subtly render the violent in a contemplative way,” they observe.

Click photo to enlarge
Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York

Sarah Pickering
Ground Burst," 2005
Lambda prints, edition of 5
47 x 55 inches

All of the above – and more – is addressed through the work of a collection of international artists represented in “Blown Away.” They are Michael Bell-Smith, Boym Partners Inc., Adam Cvijanovic, E.V. Day, Heide Fasnacht, Barnaby Furnas, Carlos Garaicoa, John Gerrard, Penelope Gottlieb, Fabrice Gygi, Jone Kvie, Pia Lindman, Stefana McClure, Cornelia Parker, Sarah Pickering, Michael Rakowitz, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff, Charles Sandison, Eduardo Santiere and David Svensson.

The exhibition, which runs through March 30, features art from a variety of media, ranging from digital photography and video, to painting, sculpture and mixed media.

While the artists investigate the act of exploding something – an idea, a myth or even a cultural totem – for example, the Barbie-doll wedding gown in E.V. Day’s “Bridal Supernova” – Duggan said the curators were particularly interested in the idea of blowing something up to analyze it.

“There are many uses of the term,” said Duggan, an independent curator who frequently collaborates with Fox, a visiting curator at the U. of I. museum. In what Duggan described as the “hunting and gathering process” the curators engaged in as they collected works for the exhibition, they purposely steered clear of more typical representations of explosions, such as mushroom clouds.

Instead, she said, “we looked for work that had an element of surprise, yet we were interested in taking shock out of the equation. We wanted something more subtle or nuanced ... more contemplative.”

Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated book. In addition to essays by the curators, it includes a couple of unexpected surprises. Notable among them, a new work of fiction titled “BOOM: Thoughts on Narrative, Destruction and the Incursion of Truth Into the Made-up Realm,” by Dave King, the author of “The Ha-Ha”; and the essay “Explosions, Supercooling and Ice-IX,” by Anthony Leggett, a Nobel Prize-winning U. of I. physics professor.

More information about “Blown Away” and related programming is available on the museum’s Web site.