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Multi-artist exhibition explores
culture of consumption
Mitchell, Arts Editor
photo to enlarge
courtesy Laurie Hogin
"New Colgate Luminous Enamel-Strengthening Cinnamint
from "Allegory of Psychodemographics:
Twenty-Four Brands My Family Uses in a Typical
Summer Day," 2006
oil paint on panel
24 panels, each 11 x 14"
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
It’s no wonder Americans are heavily invested in a culture of
consumption. As targets of ubiquitous corporate branding campaigns and
marketing mania, we are bombarded 24/7 on all fronts – through
every conceivable form of mass media and product packaging, at sporting
and entertainment venues, and even lobbied by the apparel of friends
The unified message conveyed by each of these delivery systems: Buy!
But not everyone is passively buying what’s being sold.
Among them are the 20-plus artists from around the world featured in
“Branded and On Display,” a new exhibition organized by
the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s Krannert
Art Museum and on view there Jan. 26 through April 1.
Exhibiting artists include U. of I. School
of Art and Design faculty members Conrad Bakker and Laurie Hogin,
and Amelia Moore, a U. of I senior from Downers Grove, Ill., majoring
in photography. Other participating artists are Ai Weiwei, Amy Barkow,
Ashley Bickerton, Michael Blum, Louis Cameron, Diller + Scofidio, Terence
Gower, Pierre Huyghe, Clay Ketter, Ryan McGinness, Donna Nield, Haim
Steinbach, Tempi & Wolf, Yuken Teruya, Hank Willis Thomas, Brian
Ulrich, Siebren Versteeg and Zhao Bandi.
Working in a broad range of media – from painting, sculpture and
photography to video, sound and installation – the artists explore
the motivations, methods and sometimes the underlying madness exhibited
by both partners in the frenzied tango of consumption – product
pushers and product purchasers.
“The exhibition is a reflection of the world in which we live,
or is pointing to one in which we’ll be living in the future,”
said Judith Hoos Fox, a visiting curator at the art museum. Fox is co-curator
of the show with independent curator Ginger Gregg Duggan.
“Ours is a culture defined by marketing and acquiring,”
Fox and Duggan observe in text from the catalog that accompanies the
exhibition. “With one of our founding fathers – Thomas Jefferson
– a compulsive shopper, this just may be part of being American.
Virtually every activity in our lives is experienced through purchases,
from bassinets to caskets. The landscape is studded with logos, brand
names, and billboards – inducements to participate in a culture
defined by the acquisition of commodities.
“ ‘Branded’ examines the work of artists who explore
specific strategies of branding and presentation in their response to
this pervasively commoditized environment.”
In addition to images of art from the exhibition and essays by the curators,
the accompanying catalog includes essays by three U. of I. faculty members
and by Dung Kai-cheung, Hong Kong-based author of “The Catalog,”
a collection of short stories with titles referencing brand names. U.
of I. contributors are advertising professors Daniel Cook, the author of “The Commodification of
Childhood: The Children’s Clothing Industry and the Rise of the
Child Consumer”; Cele Otnes, the author of “Cinderella Dreams:
The Allure of the Lavish Wedding”; and Linda Scott, the author
of “Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism.”
photo to enlarge
courtesy Jack Shainman
"Branded Head," 2003
digital C-print mounted to Plexiglas
96 x 60"
with “Branded,” the museum also is mounting
a smaller, companion exhibition, “Commerce and Consumption: Works
From the Permanent Collection,” through May 13. The related show,
which draws from the museum’s collection of works on paper, demonstrates
that images relating to commerce, consumption and branding are nothing
new in the annals of art history.
A public opening reception for both exhibitions will take place from
6-8 p.m. on Jan. 25. The reception will feature a children’s project
room as well as music by two Chicago-based ensembles: “Environmental
Encroachment,” an interactive performance-art and marching band,
and “The Dolphin,” which creates its unique sound mélange
from a combination of collected field recordings, post-rock pop structures
and dense beat progressions.
Also planned in conjunction with the exhibitions are a number of auxiliary
events, including talks by Fox and some of the exhibiting artists, a
workshop for teachers and an industrial design and advertising exhibition
and competition open to U. of I. art and design, business and advertising
students. The exhibition, co-sponsored by the College
of Business and its marketing department, opens at the museum
on March 29. The show and competition will feature student product
designs and corresponding advertising campaigns created in response
to the “Branded”
In 2008, “Branded” will travel to the Tufts University
Art Gallery, Medford, Mass., where it will be on view Jan. 17-March
30; from June 14-Sept. 14, it will be in Arizona at the Scottsdale
Museum of Contemporary Art.