The Cultural Life of Things

February 8, 2008 - April 21, 2008
Kemper Art Museum, Teaching Gallery


It has been said that American culture is a culture obsessed with things--the "stuff" of everyday life, from the Harley Davidson to the iPod to the Dasani water bottle. Held in conjunction with the American Culture Studies course "Reading Culture: The Cultural Life of Things," this spring's Teaching Gallery exhibition The Cultural Life of Things explores the role that art--and, when applicable, the museum that houses it--plays in shaping our view of this "stuff." The show examines how artworks depict material life, and how context affects (and in some cases altogether transforms) their perceived cultural meanings.

A wide array of works from the Kemper Art Museum's permanent collection will be on display, including a vase by Picasso, a 6th-century Greek amphora, some Japanese porcelain, and works by Piranesi, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rauschenberg, Dubuffet, Warhol, Dine, and Thiebaud. By juxtaposing works from many periods, the exhibition challenges viewers to see art objects differently, and to become attuned to the ways that institutional, cultural, and personal narratives affect their understanding of all things. Organized by Heidi Kolk, director of writing courses and lecturer in American Culture Studies.

Download the Teaching Gallery flyer >>