Extreme Connoisseurship

, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, , Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

Extreme Connoisseurship takes the Fogg Art Museum’s decision to establish departments in modern and contemporary art as an occasion to ask what an institution dedicated to research, teaching, and the sustained contemplation of objects might bring to the exhibition and collecting of present-tense art, when so much of the discussion around contemporary art has contested the value of the art object. Drawing on a definition of connoisseurship as “the articulation and symptomatic examination of visual evidence” offered by Harvard University art historian Henri Zerner, the exhibition asks what part the physical encounter with an artwork plays in our assessment of contemporary art and its larger, often non-art, claims. It proposes that, in a period understood to be “post-medium,” notions of influence and of the shared preoccupations that characterize a period ought to be reconsidered as well.

The exhibition features work by Bridget Riley, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons, Gabriel Orozco, Marcel Broodthaers, Bas Jan Ader, Vito Acconci, Yvonne Rainer, Paul McCarthy, Rudolph Stingel, Lee Lozano, Donald Judd, and Roni Horn, as well as projects by British painter Paul Morrison and Boston sculptor Alice Swinden-Carter. A section dedicated to “sampling,” digital and otherwise, features younger artists.

Extreme Connoisseurship suggests that our perception of a work of art—what one critic observed to be a condition of feeling one’s mind and eye to be in active collaboration—is in part a function of the way a thing is structured and made. The exhibition examines the relationship between the act of making and the act of looking in a disparate range of mediums and moments. It asks what, precisely, an artist does to make us stay, just a little bit longer, “in the visual” and how artists’ efforts to control and expand what we see in the art they create might affect how we see the rest of the world.

Curated by Linda Norden, associate curator of contemporary art, Fogg Art Museum.