The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology

Images

Tony Tasset, Robert Smithson (Las Vegas), 1995. Silver dye-bleach print; 83 × 49 × 3 in. (210.8 × 124.5 × 7.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and restricted gift of Jack and Sandra P. Guthman, 1995.123. © 1995 Tony Tasset. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Zin Taylor, Wrong Way to Spiral Jetty, 2006. Ink-jet print; 9 × 12 in. (22.9 × 30.5 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Bradley Projects, Toronto.
Shellburne Thurber, Cambridge, MA: Analyst’s desk with Freud bust and cloth cat, 2000. Chromogenic development print, edition of 25; 20 × 20 in. (50.8 × 50.8 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston.
Steve Rowell, Points of Presence, 2010–present. Two channel slide projection; overall dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.
Pamela Bannos, Shifting Grounds: Block 21 and Chicago’s MCA, 2013. Web-based project with site-specific components, including archival materials in vitrines and guided tours; overall dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.
Derek Brunen, Production still, Plot, 2007. Performance and high-definition video (color, sound); 6 hours, 12 minutes, Courtesy of the artist.
Shellburne Thurber, Buenos Aires: Analyst’s desk with deep red velvet chair, 2000. Chromogenic development print, edition of 25; 20 × 20 in. (50.8 × 50.8 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston.
LaToya Ruby Frazier, Go Forth Wherefrom the series Campaign for Braddock Hospital (Save our Community Hospital), 2011. Portfolio of 12 prints, photolithographs, and silk screen, edition 7 of 8, aside from 1 artist’s proof; each print: 17 × 14 in. (43 × 35.5 cm), framed: 19 11/16 × 17 5/16 in. (50.5 × 44 cm). Fonds Municipal d'Art Contemporain de la Ville de Paris.
Steve Rowell, Points of Presence, 2010–present. Two channel slide projection; overall dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.
Derek Brunen, Plot (From Above), 2007. LightJet print mounted on aluminum, edition of 3, aside from 1 artist’s proof; 48 × 108 in. (122 × 274.5 cm), Courtesy of the artist.
Jason Lazarus, The first time I saw my father unconscious (the pillow my sister placed under his head) May 24th, 2008, 2008. Archival pigment print; 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago.
Tacita Dean, The Story of Minke the Whale from The Russian Ending, 2001. Portfolio of 20 gravures on Hahnemühle Bütten 300g, edition of 35; each print: 23 ¼ x 31 ¼ in. (59 × 79.4 cm). Collection of University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Printed by Niels Borch Jensen, Copenhagen; published by Peter Blum, New York, Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris, and Frith Street Gallery, London.
Ana Torfs, Apr 11–May 31, 2009. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Erworben durch die Gesellschaft der Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, 2010, © Ana Torfs, courtesy of the artist.
Daniel Knorr, State of Mind, 2007. Papier-maché rocks; 15 × 23 × 10 7/16 in. (38 × 58.5. x 26.5 cm). Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation, Courtesy of the artist.
Mariana Castillo Deball. Installation view, It rises or falls depending on whether you’re coming or going. If you are leaving, it’s uphill; but as you arrive it’s downhill, 2006. 7 lithographs in gold antique frames and audio piece, edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof; each lithograph: 19 11/16 × 14 in. (50 × 38 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Wien Lukatsch, Berlin.
Tacita Dean, The Life and Death of St Bruno from The Russian Ending, 2001. Portfolio of 20 gravures on Hahnemühle Bütten 300g, edition of 35; each print: 23 ¼ x 31 ¼ in. (59 × 79.4 cm). Collection University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Printed by Niels Borch Jensen, Copenhagen; published by Peter Blum, New York, Courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris, and Frith Street Gallery, London.

About

The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology traces the interest in history, archaeology, and archival research that defines some of the most highly regarded art of the last decade. Consisting almost entirely of work produced after the year 2000, The Way of the Shovel reimagines the art world as an alternative “History Channel” that is as concerned with remembering histories as it is with challenging their truthfulness.

The exhibition is arranged according to several conceptual underpinnings. In the first strand, archaeology is considered metaphorically, with an emphasis on art that takes the form of historical, often archival, research. Most of this work is photographic in nature, much of it moving-image based, and explores art’s documentary powers. Key figures in this category include Phil Collins, Moyra Davey, Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Joachim Koester, Deimantas Narkevicius, Anri Sala, Hito Steyerl, and Ana Torfs, among others. In the second strand, archaeology is considered more literally, in works that question the relationship between matter (stuff, things) and historical truth. This section features the sculptural work of artists such as Cyprien Gaillard, Daniel Knorr, Michael Rakowitz, and Simon Starling, as well as artworks that address the political dimension of archaeology by Mariana Castillo Deball and Jean-Luc Moulène. Two “exhibitions-within-the-exhibition” take a closer look at the towering figure of Robert Smithson, art’s quintessential searcher, and at psychoanalysis as an archaeology of the mind. In these subsections, we encounter the work of Jason Lazarus, Tony Tasset, Shellburne Thurber, and others.

Although broad in both geographic and generational scope, The Way of the Shovel also focuses on the history of its own location, Chicago. As part of the exhibition, artist Pamela Bannos presents Shifting Grounds: Block 21 and Chicago’s MCA, a research project that explores the history of the plot of land on which the MCA stands today. In addition to elements on display at the museum, the project can be viewed online.

The exhibition and related MCA Screen video program features the work of Pamela Bannos, Lene Berg, Derek Brunen, Mariana Castillo Deball, Phil Collins, Moyra Davey, Tacita Dean, Mark Dion, Stan Douglas, Cyprien Gaillard, Raphael Grisey, Scott Hocking, Rebecca Keller, Daniel Knorr, Joachim Koester, Aleksander Komarov, Susanne Kriemann, Jason Lazarus, Jean-Luc Moulène, Deimantas Narkevicius, Sophie Nys, Gabriel Orozco, Michael Rakowitz, Steve Rowell, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Anri Sala, David Schutter, Simon Starling, Hito Steyerl, Tony Tasset, Zin Taylor, Shellburne Thurber, Ana Torfs, and Siebren Versteeg.

This exhibition is organized by Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Installation Images

Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jean-Luc Moulène, Le Monde, Le Louvre, 2005, Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art and Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Jean-Luc Moulène, Le Monde, Le Louvre, 2005, Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art and Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.
Mariana Castillo Deball, It rises or falls depending on whether you’re coming or going. If you are leaving, 2006, Installation view, The Way of the Shovel: Art and Archaeology, MCA Chicago, Nov 9, 2013–Mar 9, 2014. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wien Lukatsch, Berlin.

Funding

Lead support for The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris.

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