The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin is pleased to extend Anna Craycroft: Subject of Learning/Object of Study, the Current installation in the museum’s WorkSpace series.
Taking form in a variety of mediums and materials across three contiguous spaces of the museum—the Klein WorkSpace Gallery, the education center and a corridor—each element of the exhibition interrogates the symbolic value of educational materials and institutional settings. Individually, each artwork articulates a different aspect of the classroom and its tools. Together, each component is one part of a world that playfully reorganizes the symbolic languages of both museology and pedagogy. Through aesthetic and ideological transposition, Craycroft asks us to experience educational tools as art objects. Conversely, we are asked to consider the installation in the tradition of all art works located in museum spaces: as tools for learning.
Craycroft mines affinities between 19th-century educational design and early 20th-century artist practices to illustrate the strong resemblances between the aesthetic languages of these two disciplines. The nine symbols Maria Montessori developed to teach children grammar determined the form of the sculpture in the Klein gallery. Taken outside of the Montessori classroom and recontextualized in the museum, these brightly colored, simple shapes read as geometric abstraction. Craycroft utilized 19th-century pedagogue Friedrich Froebel’s paper-weaving technique to construct a suite of wall hangings. Each illustrates a different color theory developed by Bauhaus teachers Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Joseph Albers. In effect, Craycroft asks us to recognize pedagogues like Froebel and Montessori as artistic innovators while reaffirming Bauhaus practices as educational.
A series of workshops held in the exhibition bridge the gap between the artistic and the educational and the artworks become tools for use. University professors, artists and other members of Austin’s community, have been invited to hold classes in the space and to share their expertise in a subject of their choice with the intention of creating an atmosphere of openness, participation and exchange. In these instances, the geometric sculpture becomes a moveable, multilayered chalkboard, and when moved to the floor, the wall hangings serve as seating mats.
Casual visitors to the exhibition may explore the many offerings housed in the education room, transformed into a reading room through a series of interventions. The library of toys, historical textbooks, canonical pedagogical texts and contemporary test assessments reveals a remarkable shift in the language of education and the formation of knowledge from the late 17th century though today. Five computers, the most contemporary of the educational tools in the exhibition, feature a data processing and visualization program created by ExCorporation, a collaborative team of artists and programmers (www.ex-corporation.com). Their program, Robot Pedagogue generates new educational theories by recombining texts from the library books and arranging them into statistically probable word sequences (www.robotpedagogue.com).
Oscillating between artwork, museum display, and classroom furniture. The artworks-cum-teaching tools sit poised for engagement and are activated by function, ultimately by us as audience to Craycroft’s reimagining of the world of education. Whether engaging the installation as a viewer or participant, instructor or student, Craycroft asks us to locate ourselves within the architecture and geography of didactic spaces, including the classroom, the gallery, the museum and the university.
Craycroft received an MFA from Columbia University in 2004 and has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the PS.1′s “Greater New York” (2005). Solo exhibitions include “The Intimate Furnishings of Ignis Fatuus” at Le Case D’Arte, Milan (2005), “The Agency of the Orphan” at Tracy Williams, Ltd., New York (2008), and “Staging the Phenomenal Character”, a solo exhibition in conjunction with a performance series she curated in 2009.
WorkSpace at The Blanton
WorkSpace showcases cutting-edge developments in the work of emerging and established contemporary artists on the museum’s second floor, serving as a coda to the modern and contemporary collection galleries. The exhibitions that result from these artistic investigations provide Blanton visitors ever-changing glimpses into the art of the present moment.
WorkSpace: Anna Craycroft is generously supported by members of the Blanton Contemporary Salon.
Special thanks to Tracy Williams, LTD.