A new exhibition at the School of Art paints past and present together.
“New Genealogies,” curated by John Edmonds ART ’16, an MFA photography candidate, and Jenny Tang GRD ’20, a doctoral candidate in the history of art and film and media studies, features the work of more than 30 artists, anchored around the “Norfolkian Constellation drawings” of the late School of Art professor Robert Reed ’60 ART ’62. According to the exhibition’s press release, the show centers around the idea of “reflecting back and looking forward,” and explores questions of influence and belonging at the school. Edmonds and Tang explained that “New Genealogies” was inspired by their own approach to works of art and to the dynamic of artists in conversation with one another.
“I view the show as a collaborative effort … to bring these conversations of art-making, dialogues, histories and legacies all together, because we all occupy this four-block radius and many of us never even meet each other,” Edmonds said.
The show is anchored around Reed’s “Norfolkian constellation drawings,” which served as one of the curators’ initial inspirations to organize the show, Associate Dean of the School of Art Sam Messer explained.
Tang added that many students at the School connected with Reed through Yale Norfolk, a six-week summer art session in Norfolk, Connecticut, where his constellation drawings were made, as well as through the classes he taught at Yale.
“Robert Reed being an anchor for the show … brings different kinds of histories, legacies and artists together, and brings the conversation of influence forward — of how we kind of blindly influence each other all the time and are very unaware of that,” Edmonds said.
A number of the works on view in “New Genealogies” will be performance-based or site-specific installations, Edmonds noted. He and Tang said that highlights of the show include the photographs of An-My Lê ART ’93, which consider themes of being “embedded” in a group of people or having an ambivalent relationship to the past, Ka’man Tse’s ART ’09 video “Gahp Song,” a 25-minute clip of people feeding one another that Edmonds described as “quietly mesmerizing and powerful,” and abstract paintings by Alteronce Gumby ART ’16 that explore the origins of language and mark-making.
Messer said he hopes that works presented in the exhibition will refute myths about the ways artists must work as isolated creative geniuses, suggesting instead that they are constantly responding to the artistic output of others. Edmonds, similarly, stressed that he wants visitors to leave with the impression of the School of Art as a “community of artists” more than an “exclusive space” closed to the broader Yale community. He and Tang added that they hope exhibit attendees will leave feeling like the School of Art is an inclusive environment, rich with connections between the faculty, current students and alumni artists whose pieces are on display.
At the same time, however, the curators said that the exhibit does not ignore the nuances of what it means to “belong” to a particular place, institution or group of people.
“There’s a complicated negotiating that goes on when it comes to belonging,” Tang said. “What is it that makes this place feel like you’re ‘accepted’ and you’re a part of something, besides just showing up to school every day?”
“New Genealogies” will be on display through Jan. 28.