September 29, 2009 - Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago - Heartland
September 29, 2009


October 1, 2009 – January 17, 2010

University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

Smart Museum of Art presents Heartland
The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art presents Heartland, a new exhibition that examines innovative forms of artistic creation taking place in the geographic center of the United States. Organized by the Smart Museum and the Van Abbemuseum, the exhibition looks at a diverse assembly of artists who are responding to the world around them and reshaping it in unexpected ways.

On view from October 1, 2009 to January 17, 2010, Heartland features site-specific installations and performances as well as drawing, photography, and video by artists and artist groups who are working in—and in response to—Detroit, Kansas City, and other cities and rural communities across the region. Together with an extensive series of programs and lectures, Heartland challenges our understandings of place, community, and the role of contemporary art in our changing world.

The Smart Museum’s presentation of Heartland will premiere new commissions and present recent works by an array of artists—both outside artists-in-residence and those who call the region home. The artists and artist groups include Carnal Torpor, Compass Group, Cody Critcheloe, Jeremiah Day, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Design 99, Scott Hocking, Kerry James Marshall, Greely Myatt, Marjetica Potrč, Julika Rudelius, Artur Silva, Deb Sokolow, and Whoop Dee Doo.

Project background
In 2007 and 2008, the Heartland curators, eschewing traditional research methods, set out on a series of old-fashioned road trips through the vast center of the United States. These research trips informed two distinct exhibitions. The first presentation, which opened in October 2008 at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, sought to uncover new ways of thinking about the American interior during the U.S. presidential election and gave European audiences access to a broad survey of the Heartland’s culture, art, and music. The second, reconceived presentation at the Smart Museum, offers U.S. audiences a more focused look at the ideals of resourcefulness and invention that permeate the Heartland. Together, the two presentations offer a richly layered reading of a region that has too often been overlooked.

Exhibition catalogue
While this publication stems from the Heartland exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum and the Smart Museum of Art, it is much more than an art catalogue. Contributors—including novelist Dave Eggers, scholar Hasan Kwame Jeffries, and journalist Rebecca Solnit—explore the Heartland through topics ranging from art and music to urban farming and political history. An illustrated section introduces all of the artists involved in both iterations of Heartland and an appendix surveys the lively state of independent and artist-run cultural initiatives from New Orleans to Detroit.

Heartland is curated by Charles Esche, Director of the Van Abbemuseum, Kerstin Niemann, Research Curator at the Van Abbemuseum, and Stephanie Smith, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art.

The exhibition is co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. The Van Abbemuseum’s presentation of Heartland took place from October 3, 2008 to February 8, 2009. In Eindhoven, the project consisted of a group exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum together with a musical program in the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips.

Major funding for the Smart Museum’s presentation of Heartland was provided by Janis Kanter and Thomas McCormick and the Kanter Family Foundation. Generous support was also provided by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation and the University of Chicago Arts Council. Major support for the Heartland project was made available by Mondriaan Stichting, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Smart Museum of Art

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago
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