Time Like the Present presents selected works by printmakers who acknowledge, through their work, an inescapable historical narrative in the processes of traditional printmaking. Some engage with this history, either working to subvert it by emphasizing materiality, physicality, and tactility via process-driven experimentation. Others resist nostalgia or sentimentality through subject matter that occupies a contemporary perspective that is sometimes critical and sometimes engaged with a speculative future. Many of these artists also make work that brings printmaking into sculptural space, blending it with other media and modes of art making to expand the traditional boundaries of presentation.
The exhibition questions when the figure in art functions as a portrait, and when an artwork conceived as portraiture comes to represent the figure or the body as a stand in for a group. In addition, these works can operate as a space of projected identification for the viewer and/or the artist. Together, these artists’ works invite consideration of how the bodies and subjectivities of artists and viewers are implicated in these negotiations.
Class Pictures features six figurative works from the ZMA Permanent Collection loosely paired with the work of five contemporary artists to suggest overlapping narratives about social class, economic status, and occupation. Work from the permanent collection includes a large ceramic sculpture by Viola Frey, paintings by Leon Moran, Dupres Fuller, Eastman Johnson, Robert George Harris, and an anonymous American artist from the 19th century. The contemporary artists are Melissa Basham, Don Robson, Aubrey Longley-Cook, Yanique Norman, and Paul Stephen Benjamin, who will present a mix of paintings, collages, cross-stitch portraits, photographs, and video works. The iconography of class, the confluence of medium and message, and the interpretive possibilities within representational figurative work are all evidenced in this mix of old and new approaches to portraiture.
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