New exhibition at Krannert examines 'Control' issues

New exhibition at Krannert examines 'Control' issues

CHAMPAIGN – Artist's assistant Juliana Kase of Sao Paulo, Brazil, stood on a scaffold earlier this week inside a Krannert Art Museum gallery, using a black marker and a template to carefully draw on a white wall a stark representation of a chain-link fence.

Nearby, awaiting arrangement according to another artist's specifications, were numerous Tensabarriers, those crowd-control tools that we all have to pass through at airports, theaters, banks and other public venues.

Those pieces by the Brazilian artist Iran do Espirito Santo and Austrian artist Eva Grubinger, respectively, are the emblematic works in "Under Control," a new exhibition opening Thursday at the Krannert Art Museum on the University of Illinois campus.

Co-curator Judith Hoos Fox said the 30 works by 16 artists in the show explore the motivations and policies of governments, political organizations, corporations and other power structures, and the relationship between the controllers and people being controlled.

For the most part, the drawings, paintings, installations, videos and other pieces in the show are open-ended and do not present a political agenda.

For example, viewers looking at "Fence" might wonder whether they are standing inside or outside the drawn barrier, Fox said.

With Grubinger's "Crowd," museum visitors will pass through a labyrinth of Tensabarriers, perhaps realizing that they literally fall into line, usually without question, when confronted with the devices.

"How many times have you been herded along Tensabarriers at Disneyland, banks, airports. We just very obediently follow the path," Fox said.

In the exhibition catalog, designed by Studio Blue of Chicago, Fox wrote that financial intrigue and debacle, government-sponsored spying, pre-emptive wars and an endless stream of news all underscore the manipulation of power and resources, with consequences for us all.

"The headlines that intrigue and horrify us have become, not surprisingly, inspiration for many artists worldwide," she wrote. "Whether analyzing money transactions and their surprising beneficiaries or examining declassified documents, the artists in the exhibition seize on the subject of control with a combination of sang-froid and commitment."

Among them is Jenny Holzer, who throughout most of her career has visited the issue of control and who is perhaps the best-known artist in the exhibition.

In the show Holzer is represented by two recent large pieces – "Detainee Summary 2" (2007) and "Phase 1 - Force Laydown" (2007).

The first is an oil-on-linen painting of a declassified government memorandum in which virtually all the information has been "redacted," that word most of us have come to know to represent the blackouts of information in official documents

"Instead of studying the brush strokes in these monumental images, we find ourselves questioning everything – Who issued the orders? Who chose what text to black out? And, more significantly, what is in the classified documents?" the curators wrote in for the catalog text.

Among the videos in the exhibition (designed by Lyn Rice Architects of New York) is "Election Night" (2007) by Spanish artists Los Torreznos and Rafael Lamata, who address political spin in a debate-as-theater scenario. They sit next to each other against a white background and speak or chant the names of historic political figures. Accompanied by a flamenco beat, they reply to each other, sometimes becoming heated in the process.

With "Under Control," Fox and co-curator Ginger Gregg Duggan, who work together as the team c2 (curators squared), hope museum visitors consider and question the origins and motivations of power and control.

"We're not saying it's good or bad," Fox said. "We're saying let's just be cognizant that we are being controlled ... What really interests us is how to present artists' keen points of view so we live in a more conscious way."

If you go

What: "Under Control," a new exhibition featuring 30 works by 16 international artists, co-curated by Judith Hoos Fox and Ginger Gregg Duggan, designed by Lyn Rice Architects of New York.

When: Thursday through Jan. 3, 2010, with opening reception 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday featuring live music by Kilroy, et. al, and Liesel Booth and cash bar hosted by Corkscrew. Hosted by Krannert Art Museum Council.

Where: Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, C.

Museum admission: free, with $3 donation suggested.

Museum hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Information: 333-1861, online at

Exhibition sponsors: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Office of the Chancellor; Office of the Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Illinois Arts Council; Krannert Art Museum Director's Circle and Krannert Art Museum Council.