A single photograph records a moment, but serial artworks can visually chart the passage of time by allowing several moments to be seen at once or in sequence. Eadweard Muybridge made use of this capability to track quick animal and human movements in his 1884—1887 study Animal Locomotion. Using custom-designed cameras with multiple lenses, he produced hundreds of composite images of bodies in motion, including two examples in the exhibition. Two photographs from Richard Misrach’s Golden Gate series feature the Golden Gate Bridge at various times of day during different seasons, emphasizing the changing color, light, and weather patterns surrounding a fixed and static subject.
Storytelling is an essential function of many serial artworks. The Legend of John Brown by Jacob Lawrence relates the narrative of the famous abolitionist in 22 graphic prints with descriptive, prose-like titles. Nicholas Africano’s sequence of eight lithographs with watercolor describes his friend Bill’s recovery from an invasive surgery, in which the artist saw parallels with his own healing after a painful divorce.
William Kentridge’s animated video Automatic Writing takes the form of charcoal drawings that are continually drawn and erased, bringing viewers into the artist’s subconscious through fragmentary scenes that never quite coalesce into a clear narrative.
Serial Intent features a temporary wall installation of Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays. The wall will be covered floor-to-ceiling in Holzer’s multicolored posters, which were first posted in public spaces in New York City between 1979—1981. Each poster consists of 100 words on a square colored piece of paper, expressing extreme ideological statements meant to provoke viewers to question the expressed inflammatory message.
Serial Intent features installations of major series in the museum’s collection that are rarely displayed in full. The role of the serial format in art-making and art-viewing is explored in the works described above, as well as serial investigations by artists including Vito Acconci, Dieter Appelt, Jennifer Bartlett, Bruce Checefsky, Robert Indiana, Sol LeWitt, Judith McMillan, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bryn Zellers.
Elizabeth M. Carney is the Assistant Curator at the Akron Art Museum. This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the Ohio Arts Council.
Wundegarten Der Natur (Magic Garden of Nature) Karl Blossfeldt, 1932, photogravures, 11 x 8.5 in. (each), Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Museum Acquisition Fund. Individually titled, 60 on view. 1979.27.1-120
The Legend of John Brown Jacob Lawrence, 1978, screenprints on paper, 20 x 14 in. (each), Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of David and Frances Cooper. Individually titled, 22 on view. 1979.35 a-v
Elizabeth M. Carney
Bestiary Michael Loderstedt and Craig Lucas, 1999-2000, screenprints and relief on paper, 20 x 26 in. (each), Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of Michael Loderstedt in memory of Craig Lucas and in honor of Mitchell D. Kahan. 2012.94 a-x
SERIAL INTENT features major serial works of art in large and impressive installations. Rarely seen large groupings and full series by Andy Warhol, Lorna Simpson, Jacob Lawrence, Barbara Kruger, Michael Loderstedt and Craig Lucas, Lori Kella, Karl Blossfeldt, and others fill the gallery walls. The exhibition highlights the serial format as an artist’s tool, both as a practical method of production and as a way to affect viewers’ understanding. The repetition of elements such as composition, subject or theme provides a structure to each series, while variation within that structure develops complexity or brings clarity to central ideas. The exhibition calls attention to the role of the series across a variety of styles, approaches, and subjects.
Dozens of photogravures of botanical specimens from Karl Blossfeldt’s Wundegarten der Natur (Magic Garden of Nature) engage the impulse to compare and contrast individuals within a group. These black-and-white photographs emphasize the unique form of each seed pod, blossom or stem within a direct compositional format. Lorna Simpson’s Wigs (portfolio) also replicates the familiar format of the typological collection, using it to challenge deeper implications of stereotyping in the categorization of human physical traits such as hair color and style.