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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

Selected works

The Teaching Gallery is a space in the Kemper Art Museum dedicated to presenting works from the Museum's collection with direct connections to Washington University courses. Teaching Gallery installations are intended to serve as parallel classrooms and can be used to supplement courses through object-based inquiry, research, and learning. Learn more