September 17, 2014 - The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago - Josef Strau
September 17, 2014

Josef Strau

Photo courtesy of Josef Strau.

Josef Strau
The New World, Application for Turtle Island

September 21–November 9, 2014

Opening: Sunday, September 21, 4–7pm, with artist talk at 5pm

The Renaissance Society
at the University of Chicago
5811 S. Ellis Ave.
Cobb Hall, 4th floor
Chicago, IL 60637
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 10am–5pm,
Saturday–Sunday noon–5pm
Free admission

“I for sure at least could say that my whole project is dedicated to these daily experiences in the countries of the Americas, experiences which stand in such opposition to those in Europe all the years before. I wish I could say that my whole project is dedicated to the Americas, but I for sure don’t know what I am talking about, so I better not. I wish my whole project could be dedicated to many of the cultures of the Native Americans too or even to the Holy Mother of Guadalupe, called Mother of the Americas. But I might have become too shabby a soul to proclaim my name and my word so very next to them…”

The Renaissance Society presents The New World, Application for Turtle Island, a new body of work by Josef Strau that marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in a US museum.

Strau’s work mines the interplay between language, form, and environment, resulting in concise and highly symbolic sculptural installations. These are intimately related to, and often feature, his characteristic stream-of-consciousness writing, which merges the diaristic, the theoretical, and the fictional. Described as “an artist who writes and a writer who makes art,” Strau places interrogations of authorship and explorations of subjectivity at the center of his peripatetic practice.

At the Renaissance Society, Strau presents work recently produced in Mexico City that reflects on his experience of arriving in the Americas. Drawing on a rich narrative history of encounters between Europeans and the New World, Strau joins this collective canon with a project that celebrates the possibilities of individual freedom and expresses gratitude for the hospitality and acceptance he has received on his journey.

Text has often played a role in Strau’s previous sculptural and installation-based work; however, here his writings for the first time take the form of an independent book (described by him as “a kind of treasure island adventure novel”) that serves a structuring function, determining the production and selection of objects on view in the exhibition. The result is a meandering installation of sculptures, found objects, and text that brings together two different modes of production: in positing the writings as a highly personal output, and the objects as a shared, collaborative effort, Strau points to the dual threads of independence and dependence that have long been at the heart of immigrant stories.

The New World, Application for Turtle Island is accompanied by two related publications. The first, The Application, is available from the opening of the exhibition and imagines itself as a visa application to Turtle Island, offering a more personal petition in lieu of the formal legal paperwork. The second documents the Renaissance Society installation and features a critical text by Jay Sanders alongside introductions to different aspects of Strau’s practice by artists with whom he has recently collaborated: Bernadette Van-Huy, Stefan Tcherepnin, Antek Walczak, Fernando Mesta and José Rojas.

The Renaissance Society is an independent, non-collecting museum of contemporary art located on the campus of the University of Chicago. It is committed to supporting ambitious artistic experimentation, primarily through the commissioning of new works, and to fostering a rigorous, interdisciplinary discourse around it. In addition to the gallery program, it hosts an eclectic range of concerts, performances, lectures, screenings, and readings. 

Visit our website for more information and the full autumn program.

Josef Strau at the Renaissance Society
The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
Share - Josef Strau
  • Share