Charlotte Moorman Exhibit : A Feast of Astonishments

Press release.

A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s1980s

1/15/2016 – 7/17/2016


In January 2016, the Block Museum will open the first major exhibition exploring the art and impact of Charlotte Moorman­a musician, performance artist and advocate of the avant-garde. The exhibition will consider her life, her work, her influence, and the vast network of artists across creative fields who were her collaborators in the 1960s through 1980.

Charlotte Moorman was a bold, barrier-breaking performer and a tireless champion of the avant-garde. Her freewheeling avant garde festivals brought experimental art to a broad public for nearly 20 years.

However, recognition of Moorman to date has been limited to her collaborations with other artists­including composer John Cage and Korean-American multimedia artist Nam June Paik­and to her 1967 performance of Paiks Opera Sextronique, for which she became known as the topless cellist after being arrested on indecency charges.

The Block Museums upcoming exhibition goes deeper to examine Moorman as a leading international figure of a seminal period of experimental art.

The exhibition will feature original sculptures, photographs, video art works, installations, newly discovered props and costumes for performance art works, annotated music scores, archival materials, film clips and audio recordings. Many of these objects will be drawn from a one-of-a-kind archival resource held at Northwestern University Library, the Charlotte Moorman Archive, acquired by the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections in 2001.

An exhibition catalogue published by Northwestern University Press will feature new research from art historians, curators, and musicologists:

  • Lisa G. Corrin, Ellen Philips Katz Director, Block Museum of Art
  • Ryan Dohoney, Assistant Professor, Musicology, Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University
  • Corinne Granof, Curator of Academic Programs, Block Museum of Art
  • Hannah B Higgins, Professor, School of Art and Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Rachel Jans, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Laura Wertheim Joseph, Curatorial Research Associate, Block Museum of Art
  • Scott Krafft, Curator, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library
  • Kathy ODell, Associate Professor, Art History and Museum Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Jason Rosenholtz-Witt, Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University
  • Joan Rothfuss, Independent Curator and author of Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman (MIT Press, 2014)
  • Kristine Stiles, France Family Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University

A Feast of Astonishments is organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, in partnership with Northwestern University Libraries. The exhibition is supported by major grants from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional generous support is provided by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; the Alumnae of Northwestern University; the Colonel Eugene E. Myers Foundations; the Illinois Arts Council Agency; Dean of Libraries Discretionary Fund; the Charles Deering McCormick Fund for Special Collections; and the Florence Walton Taylor Fund.

The exhibition has been curated by a collaborative team: Lisa G. Corrin, Director, Block Museum; Corinne Granof, Curator of Academic Programs, Block Museum; Scott Krafft, Curator of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Libraries; Michelle Puetz, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, Block Museum; Joan Rothfuss, consulting curator and author of Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman; and Laura Wertheim Joseph, Consulting Curatorial Associate.

A Feast of Astonishments will travel in fall 2016 to New York Universitys Grey Art Gallery in Manhattan and to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in spring 2017.

A Feast of Astonishments benefits from a number of loans from private collections, including that of Yoko Ono, as well as from unfettered access to the Charlotte Moorman Archive at Northwestern University Libraries.

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