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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., September 30, 2015—Navel-gazing, a self-mocking focus on an artist’s own life and practice, embracing identity politics, and a skeptical obsession with technology is the stuff of Your smarter than me. i don’t care. The exhibition opens at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) October 2, 2015, and will be on view through January 3, 2016. Your smarter than me draws from WCMA’s collection and highlights 18 of the 67 works of contemporary art from a recent gift by philanthropist Peter Norton. The title of the exhibition is taken from a 1994 Cary Leibowitz text-painting featured in the show.
Norton’s gift augments the museum’s strength in contemporary art. It includes works by some of today’s leading artists, including Nayland Blake, Tracey Emin, Nicole Eisenman, Mike Kelley, and Adrian Piper. These come together in the exhibition with works from the collection by; Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, Richard Hawkins, and Teddy Sandoval.
“Peter Norton is well known for supporting artists early in their careers and for not shying away from work that deals with tough issues,” says Lisa Dorin, WCMA’s Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Contemporary Art. “A number of the works on view were created for the artists’ very first exhibitions. Several deal explicitly with how to define oneself as an artist within structures seemingly bent on constraining rather than encouraging. This is a powerful notion within the context of the college where students are posing the same kinds of questions and beginning to form themselves as citizens.”
When Cary Leibowitz made his diminutive painting, “Your smarter than me. i don’t care.” he was 31 years old. He was in the early stages of crafting his artistic persona, “Candy Ass,” making humor-laden, self-deprecating, text-based works that poked fun at his own identity, fear of mediocrity, and the elitist art world. The painting invites you to enter into the uncomfortable place that artists often find themselves in when they create works of art that stem from their own life experiences and put them out into the world to be scrutinized.
Other works in the exhibition that deal with difficult subjects include: Mike Kelley’s “Untitled” wooden paddle emblazoned with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution reflecting the artist’s interest in issues of psychological and physical violence in the name of power in works that mine childhood memory and trauma; and Moyomo Torimitsu’s uncanny life-size robotic “Miyata Jiro,” which makes use of technology to challenge assumptions about Japanese corporate culture, and the accompanying performance documentation showing the then 28 year-old artist dressed as a nurse aiding the crawling robot on New York City’s Wall Street.
All of the works in Your smarter than me deal with issues of identity and difference, and express through a variety of means, concerns about societal shifts that might call our personhood into question. The artists represented in the exhibition are; Nayland Blake, Sarah Charlesworth, Jennifer Cho, Susan Choi, Keith Cottingham, Nicole Eisenman, Tracey Emin, Ellen Gallagher, Gary Gissler, Richard Hawkins, Mike Kelley, Sean Landers, Cary S. Leibowitz, Glenn Ligon, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Adrian Piper, Allen Ruppersberg, Teddy Sandoval, Katy Schimert, Jim Shaw, Kiki Smith, Momoyo Torimitsu, Gillian Wearing, Carrie Mae Weems, and David Wojnarowicz.
Peter Norton Gifts
WCMA is one recipient in a series of gifts Norton made to university and college art museums throughout the country. The art, from Norton’s personal collection, is intended to support the integration of the visual arts in higher education, to connect diverse audiences with contemporary art, and to foster creative museum practice.
A number of the other institutions joining WCMA as gift recipients have begun incorporating the Norton works into their exhibitions and academic programs.
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University displayed a selection of Norton works last May in Rotation 1: Contemporary Art from the Peter Norton Gift. A second exhibition, Rotation 2 opened on Friday, Sept. 11. The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University is showing a large format color photograph by Anna Gaskell and a suite of sculptures by Lisa Yuskavage in conjunction with a survey show of her work through Dec. 13.
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College has several of their Norton gifts on view this fall. A Kara Walker print and Pipilotti Rist video are in Dismantling the House, a show exploring feminism in the Tang collection curated by student, Imaan Riaz, Skidmore ’15. Sculpture by Tim Hawkinson, Fred Wilson, Dario Robleto, and Nicole Cherubini and a photo by Wolfgang Laib are on view in Affinity Atlas, an exhibition inspired by the last work of the pioneering art historian Aby Warburg. Many other works will be on view in the Tang’s print room for class visits throughout the semester.
Williams College Museum of Art
The Williams College Museum of Art makes dynamic art experiences to incite new thinking about art, museums, and the world. At the heart of the Williams College campus the museum draws on the collaborative and multidisciplinary ethos of the surrounding college to enliven the more than 14,000 works in its growing collection. The museum and its collection are a catalyst for student learning and community engagement. WCMA is located on Main Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and closed Wednesdays. WCMA is free and open to all. For more information, contact the museum at 413-597-2429 or visit wcma.williams.edu.