Upcoming Exhibitions

2016-2017 Academic Year  


Lines of Descent: Masters and Students in the Utagawa School

January 24–May 21, 2017
Ripin Gallery

This exhibition approaches the museum’s 2016–17 focus on the concept of time by tracing the history of an important group of woodblock printmakers in Japan, the Utagawa school (Utagawaha 歌川派). Founded in the Edo Period (1603–1868) by Utagawa Toyoharu, this lineage went on to produce some of the most celebrated print designers in Japanese art. The 52 prints on view include dynamic actor prints by Toyokuni and Kunisada, the renowned landscape prints of Hiroshige, the dramatic narratives of Kuniyoshi, and the creative and technical brilliance of Yoshitoshi. Utagawa works from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries demonstrate the links between master print designers and their students, who often became masters themselves, as well as how the Utagawa school adapted to meet the changing market during Japan’s rapid modernization in the Meiji Period (1868–1912).

This exhibition was curated by Kevin R.E. Greenwood, the Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art.

Image: Utagawa Kunisada I
(Japanese, 1786–1865)
Memorial Portrait of Utagawa Hiroshige, 1858
Color woodblock print
Mary A. Ainsworth Bequest, 1950.779


The Archaic Character of Seal Script

January 24–May 21, 2017
Ripin Gallery

This small exhibition focuses on the historical and artistic dimensions of seal script, the oldest form of Chinese writing. Calligraphers in China often choose seal script to convey a sense of antiquity when writing out selections from ancient texts or rendering the formal titles of documents. Works on view include a seal script rendering of a chapter from the classic Daoist text Daodejing, a 19th century imperial edict, and contemporary prints by Japanese artist Maki Haku, whose work emphasizes the pictorial aspect of seal script characters.

This exhibition was curated by Kevin R.E. Greenwood, the Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art.

Maki Haku 巻白
(Japanese, 1924–2000)
Dance 69–1, 1969
Woodblock print and cement block print
Art Rental Collection Fund, RC 2016.6



Exploring Reciprocity: The Power of Animals in Non-Western Art

January 24–May 21, 2017
Ripin Gallery

Animals act as companions and contributors to human life in this evocative exhibition featuring works that range from Japanese woodblock prints to whalebone sculptures of indigenous North America. Reciprocal relationships between humans and animals are fundamental to the traditional moral philosophies of numerous non-Western societies, and many contemporary indigenous communities draw on these relationships as a resource in the face of colonialism, exploitation, and environmental devastation. 

The works in this exhibition vividly depict those relationships, as they have been imagined by peoples across time and space. A 19th-century Japanese woodblock print renders anthropomorphic catfish rescuing humans in the wake of a series of cataclysmic earthquakes. A late 20th-century Inuit sculpture features human faces carved of walrus ivory and framed with baleen hair, nestled inside the skull of a polar bear. A tempera work depicting brightly colored horses fleeing hungry wolves, created in the 1920s by Taos Pueblo artist Pop Chalee, conveys a profound respect for the natural environment, in which humans are always implicated.

Exploring Reciprocity is curated by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Chie Sakakibara in conjunction with her spring 2017 courses “Indigenous Environmentalism” and “Nature, Culture, and Interpretation.” Curatorial assistance was provided by Liliana Milkova and Sam Tunick (OC ’18).

In this 1950s sculpture made from a whale vertebra, an Iñupiaq shaman sings and drums for the spirit of the whale that gave itself to the people. Gift of Marcia Aronoff (OC 1965), 2015.33.3



Form and Light: Brett Weston Photographs

January 24–May 21, 2017
Ripin Gallery

Born in Los Angeles in 1911, Brett Weston began to study photography as a teenager and went on to become a successful photographer of landscapes and still life. His career was launched in 1925 when he and his father, renowned American photographer Edward Weston, traveled to Mexico, where he met painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, along with photographer Tina Modotti. From his father and his circle, Weston learned not only the craft of photography, but also a formalist approach to his artistic subjects. Extracting objects from their context to focus on minute details of line and shape, as well as contrasts of light and dark, Weston’s photographs are visual studies of form and light.

The exhibition is curated by Denise Birkhofer, former Ellen Johnson ’33 Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with assistance from Madeleine Aquilina (OC ’16). The museum acknowledges the generosity of Christian Keesee Collection and the Brett Weston Archive, which provided for the acquisition of the majority of the photographs.

Image: Brett Weston’s Dune, 1981. Richard Lee Ripin Art Purchase Fund, 2015.38.2



Images in Black and White

Education Hallway
January 31—July 2, 2017

How does photography as a medium, art form, and documentary method construct identity and stereotype? This exhibition of six photographs explores how the oversaturation of imagery in contemporary American media establishes visual expectations associated with such concepts as the “beautiful,” the “moral,” and even the “criminal.”

Organized by Mir Finkelman (OC ’16), curatorial assistant in the Office of Academic Programs, with special thanks to Liliana Milkova and Matthew Rarey.

George Gibson, James Clifford, Charles Donnelly, and Matthew Martin: All Held in Connection with the Killing of Edward McGuire, ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz, 2016.19.26



Recent Acquisitions in Asian Art

West Ambulatory
January 24 - May 21, 2017

On view will be a selection of works the museum has acquired since 2014, but which have not yet been exhibited. One is a scroll of calligraphy and minimalist painting titled Takasago by Yamaoka Tesshū (Japanese, 1836–1888), an artist, swordsman, practitioner of Zen Buddhism, and pivotal figure in the turbulent world of late 19th century Japan. Four lithographs by painter and printmaker Roger Shimomura (American, b. 1939) are confrontational, using subtle irony and absurdist exaggeration to tackle racism and stereotypes. Also included are recently acquired ceramic works by two contemporary Japanese artists: Wada Akira’s Sun and Moon, a pair of perfect porcelain spheres; and Shio Kusaka’s stoneware jar titled (stripe 99), a work of robust elegance, with understated colors and abstract, linear patterns formed through texture and glaze.

Image: Sun and Moon
Akira Wada (Japanese, born 1978)
Glazed porcelain
Oberlin Friends of Art Fund, 2016.35.1A-B–.2A-B


New Installation of African Art
Opens January 31, 2017
East Ambulatory

This installation demonstrates the diversity of African visual expression and material culture, challenging Western conceptions of the continent as a homogenous cultural sphere. Featuring works from the museum’s African collection, it spans 11 distinct ethnic groups, 11 contemporary African nations, and 500 years of history. The installation draws attention to the pragmatic and symbolic dimensions of the objects on display, situating them in historical context, and interrogates the commercial and colonial processes that produced them and brought them to American museums. The selection was curated by students in the seminar “African Art in Museums: From Collection to Display” under the direction of Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of the arts of Africa and the Black Atlantic.

Image: Phemba (Figure of a Mother and Child), late 19th or early 20th century
Yombe artists, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gift in honor of Alexandra Gould (OC 2011), 2011.26.46