‘I hope viewers see the possibilities for teaching and learning through an art museum on campus and how it can catalyze students’ academic experience,’ curator says
Fifteenth-century woodcuts, Catholic Church plenary indulgences, a 3D characterization of a New York City subway. These prints, while vastly different in time and topic, all have one thing in common: The unifying theme of persuasion.
In the Persuasive Prints exhibition at the CU Art Museum, prints gathered from the museum’s collection, augmented with loans from CU University Library’s Special Collections, show how artists and printmakers have combined images, text and artistic techniques to persuade viewers.
Curated by graduate students in the museum’s practicum seminar, the diverse Persuasive Prints exhibition brings together 35 engravings, etchings, lithographs and woodcuts created from the 1500s to today.
The exhibition will open Feb. 6 and run through July 18.
While some works are designed to sway public opinion by expressing official or institutional views, others are restrained in their approach, expressing personal opinion or perspective. Across all of the exhibition artwork, though, student curators asked how these prints communicate with viewers and how printmaking has contributed to public dialogue through the years.
Hope Saska, curator of collections and exhibitions at the CU Art Museum, teaches a graduate-level curatorial practicum in Museum and Field Studies. Eight graduate students selected artwork from the museum’s collection that they wanted to study this semester.
Rather than choosing a topic or unifying theme for the exhibition and then picking the artwork that fits the theme, the students worked backward by selecting the art first and then choosing persuasion as the theme.
In some cases, it’s not clearly evident how the prints are trying to persuade the viewer to a point of view. Text accompanies the works so viewers can learn how the pieces connect when, on face value, they might feel disconnected.
“The prints are all in some way trying to convey a story, communicate some kind of message to the viewer,” Saska said, “so we wanted to start with that basic premise. This exhibition is a nice way to showcase materials that maybe haven’t been on view for a long time or ever. I hope viewers see the possibilities for teaching and learning through an art museum on campus and how it can catalyze students’ academic experience.”
Kristin Enright is a first-year PhD student in CU Boulder’s new doctoral program in art history, called Arts of the Americas. Her area of focus is the colonial ceramics made in Puebla, Mexico. The prints she chose are from different times and places but within the long and complex time of the Spanish Empire.
“I was interested in how state institutions and the Catholic Church used print and how lay individuals or people working commercially used that medium to different ends within the colonial context. Some have much more explicit messages than others. Messages don’t have to be in your face to be powerful.”
Before coming to CU, Enright was a museum educator. With this PhD, she wants to curate exhibitions and bridge curation with educational programming in community efforts taking place in museums.
Taylor Hosford is a second-year art history master’s student interested in artwork that is socially engaged and works as an activist process. The pieces Hosford chose have to do with an interest in depicting identity in artwork.
“My work primarily focuses on contemporary queer performance art,” Hosford said. “We got to go into storage at the art museum and dig through the collection to see what piqued our interest. Doing that resulted in a selection of objects that don’t appear to go to together at first. It will be exciting to see them come together under this theme that asks viewers to interrogate how they’re reading the objects.”