CHICAGO — Steel sculptures and neon lights by artist and
dancer Brendan Fernandes, which are based on fabricated African masks sold to
tourists in New York City, anchor one of three exhibitions — “The Living Mask”
— that will open this fall at DePaul Art Museum.
The second exhibition, “Someday, Chicago,” examines the work
of American-born photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto through his images of Chicago,
where the photographer lived for several years and continued to return to
throughout his life.
Also on display will be images of screaming women taken by Chicago
photographer Whitney Bradshaw since the Women’s March on Washington in January.
“Outcry” asks viewers to contemplate difficult issues related to sexism, power,
race, representation and social justice all while demanding that women be heard
“When I think about the fall exhibition slate, I think about
the term ‘outcry’,” said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of
“Not only outcry around harassment and sexual assault that
Whitney Bradshaw used to help shape her exhibition under that title, but also
outcry in that Yasuhiro Ishimoto was interned during World War II due to his Japanese
ethnicity. How did that happen and how can we make sure it doesn’t happen
“And, outcry around the colonization of Africa, the systemic
oppression of certain populations and the misrepresentation of African masks in
museums that Brendan Fernandes presents in his exhibition,” said Widholm.
“We hope these exhibitions spark discussions among museum visitors
about not only the issues being raised within the artwork, but other areas in
society where more justice is needed,” Widholm noted.
The exhibitions open Sept. 6 and run through Dec. 16, 2018,
at the museum on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus.
Brendan Fernandes: “The
A classically trained ballet dancer, Fernandes started
thinking more critically about the profession after he left it.
“Being an artist who works through things like post-colonial
history and theories, I started to conflate the two and think about ballet as a
Western form of hegemony in a way,” said Fernandes. “Ballet began during the
Renaissance and took off in France under Louis XIV. We see ballet on stage and
it's beautiful and romanticized, but I want to create a new dialogue, a new
kind of understanding to this form as well.”
Born in Kenya to descendants from Goa — a former Portuguese
colony in India — Fernandes and his family left Kenya for Toronto in 1989 due
to political unrest in the country.
That background plays strongly into Fernandes’ work as he
continues to explore his African heritage through art.
“In my work, I’m asking questions about identity, authorship
and authority. But at the end of the day, I’m asking these questions about who
I am. I’m a Canadian and a Kenyan who is of Indian heritage and lives in the
U.S., and I’m sort of questioning my sense of cultural authenticity. Many of
these objects in my exhibition are also African. What’s their cultural
authenticity?” asked Fernandes.
Among the pieces Fernandes provided for the exhibition are
several black-and-white photographs from his “As One” series taken in 2017. The
images show white ballet dancers in poses alongside African masks positioned on
stands. The ballet poses are specific and intentional and show deference to the
masks, Fernandes explained.
“The poses towards the masks are kind of questioning that
post-colonial history,” he said. “This westernized, stylized and civilized body
is genuflecting towards the masks and at the same time becomes the body of the
Three African masks made with neon lights also are displayed
in the exhibition. Fabricated African masks sold as tourist souvenirs on Canal
Street in New York City, but based on objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Collection inspired Fernandes to create these pieces.
Nine African objects from DePaul’s collection, including
masks from the Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Nigeria, round out the
"The exhibition addresses race and power in museums,”
said Widholm, curator of this exhibition. “We landed on the title ‘The Living
Mask’ because we felt the masks were really objectified in the museums, and
they aren't thought of as having a life to them. Living refers to the body that
would use them. We are trying to reanimate them. They belonged to a certain
kind of people who used them in a certain type of way with their bodies. They
aren't dead objects, they are living objects,” she said.
Fernandes and Widholm hope the exhibition starts a
conversation about how to talk about African objects that are collected by in
“African masks used to be worn while dancing,” said Fernandes.
“We take away the dances and the human element when they are at museums. They're
relegated to being an exotic commodity, we have changed the way they function.
So I want to bring back the history of their lived experience. How, who and why
were the dances performed?
“I don’t think the answer is to send these objects back to
where they came from, but we do need to acknowledge the history and question
the narrative that exists. It’s more about a conversation, and that’s what I’m
trying to do with my pieces. Why ballet and African masks? Now, there’s a
reason to bring it up and have a conversation about it,” Fernandes said.
Yasuhiro Ishimoto: “Someday,
Born in the United States and raised in Japan, Ishimoto returned
to the U.S. in his late teens. Only a few years later he became one of more
than 115,000 Americans with Japanese ancestry forced into internment camps
during World War II. It was in the internment camp where he first developed an
interest in photography, showing a formal rigor and keen eye for composition,
according to the exhibition’s guest curators, Jasmine Alinder and John Tain.
Alinder is an associate professor of history at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Tain is head of research at the Art Asia Archive in
Following his release at the end of the war, the U.S.
government sent Ishimoto to Chicago, where he developed a lifelong love of the
city and continued his work with photography.
Living in the city from 1945-52 and then again from 1958-61,
Ishimoto developed his unique modernist vision. He studied at the Institute of
Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and took photographs on the city’s
streets, creating images of iconic Chicago landmarks like the Loop and the ‘L’
train, and also of everyday life — people walking to work or a car driving by.
He went into segregated neighborhoods to take photographs of daily life, as
well as public spaces where racial and class mixing more commonly occurred.
“As part of a minority ethnic group that had been legally
segregated and declared a threat to national security, Ishimoto knew well how
it felt to be excluded, ostracized and even demonized because of one’s racial
identity,” said Widholm.
“Ishimoto’s work focused on documenting elements of everyday
life — such as African American children dressing up for Halloween or families
in Lincoln Park lounging on the beach — in order to create an empathetic,
humanist lens for his subjects. His black-and-white photographs of communities
in Chicago and elsewhere show us how we are, ultimately, more the same than
different,” Widholm said.
A well-known artist internationally, Ishimoto is considered
a master of black-and-white photography. After returning to Japan in 1961, he
revisited his earlier interest in architectural photography and later turned to
Cibachrome photography, which was an innovative color process he utilized to
create abstract images. Though Ishimoto visited Chicago numerous times, he
lived primarily in Japan until his death in 2012.
The DePaul Art Museum exhibition “Yasuhiro Ishimoto:
Someday, Chicago” features more than 50 works that include both black-and-white
photographs from his work in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in Chicago and his Cibachrome
photographs from the early 1980s.
“My favorite pieces in the show are the photographs he made
in Chicago from the late 1940s through the early 1960s,” said guest curator Alinder.
“Ishimoto was able to integrate the concern of a social documentarian with an attention
to visual aesthetics that he honed while he was a student at Chicago's
Institute of Design.”
“Although Ishimoto spent
a great deal of his life in Japan, he thought of Chicago as his home city,
and I hope this exhibition brings his work and artistic legacy to a new
generation of Chicagoans,” said Alinder.
The exhibition is part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration
of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for
American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.
Whitney Bradshaw: “Outcry”
Defined as a loud, piercing cry or cries expressing
excitement, great emotion or pain, a scream can be a powerful tool for the
overlooked to express public anger or disapproval. In her exhibition for DePaul
Art Museum, Bradshaw’s “Outcry” features 108 portraits of women screaming that
she’s photographed since Jan. 20, 2018, the day of the Women’s March on
Each photograph is a document of much more involved events
created by Bradshaw in her home studio where she invites groups of women to
scream in response to the silencing they’ve experienced. “Outcry” challenges stereotypes
around women and femininity, while celebrating their resilience and insisting
on a reconsideration of beauty and power, she said.
Bradshaw developed the idea of exploring the silence
surrounding sexual violence and harassment while working with the local nonprofit
organization Rape Victim Advocates when she was in her 20s. With the recent
rise of the #MeToo movement, Bradshaw felt the time was right for the project
since she had identified a way to explore these difficult issues that was positive,
therapeutic, empowering and fun for the women involved, she said.
“I wanted to engage in a project that brought women together
to support one another in an exercise that would allow each of us to, bravely,
practice speaking out and being heard, all with a supportive group around us,”
said Bradshaw. “My hope is that this project empowers the women involved, while
expanding our community, fostering empathy and encouraging support by all who
come into contact with it.”
In addition to the images on display, Bradshaw will hold two
scream sessions at the museum Sept. 21 and Nov. 10. Just as in her home studio,
Bradshaw will work with small groups of 10-20 women who don’t know one another
to create a safe space in which each can practice expressing themselves
unencumbered. She will make individual portraits of each woman as they take
turns screaming in front of the camera while being encouraged by the others in
the group. These portraits will be added to the installation over the duration
of the exhibition along with any new portraits she makes during her continuous
home studio sessions.
“The ambiguity of the expressions are one of the things that
interests me about the project because each person is screaming for their own
reason, one that most of the time I am unaware of as it is their personal
experience,” said Bradshaw. “The range of expressions makes the project richer
as it allows the viewer to imagine what they might be feeling, and hopefully it
encourages empathy in that moment of engagement.”
Neon art piece: “Tourist/Refugee”
One additional work of art will hang in the West-facing
window closest to the Fullerton ‘L’ stop between the summer and fall
exhibitions in August and then again in December between the fall and winter
exhibitions. Called “Tourist/Refugee,” the piece is a blinking neon light that
flashes the word tourist followed by the word refugee.
Chicago-based artists Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson, who
call themselves “Industry of the Ordinary,” designed the piece in order to address
the implications of foreign policy on the movement of people across borders and
the humanitarian responsibility of providing aid for refugees.
On Oct. 8, Columbus Day — or Indigenous People’s Day — Industry
of the Ordinary will hold a silent vigil at 5:30 p.m. at Saint Vincent de Paul
Church in remembrance of the many thousands of displaced people who have
recently tried, and often failed, to find safe harbor. Titled “Genuflect,” the
procession will then head east to Lake Michigan.
DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Hours
are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 11
a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Admission is free. Additional information at http://museums.depaul.edu or
Julie Rodrigues Widholm