Sing Muses: History and Allegory in Narrative Art
February 23, 2019 to May 13, 2019
Artists included: Stanley Bly, Henry Darger, Glen C. Davies, Nicole Gordon, George Klauba, Shirley Mann, Nancy Plotkin, Filemon Santiago, Kevin Veara
Narrative art is art that tells a story, either a single moment in an ongoing narrative or told as a sequence of events unfolding over time. This exhibition looks at artwork from the museum's permanent collection that narrates a story for us. How do we discern narrative action as opposed to a picture of something? In a picture, such as a still life of flowers for example, what we see is what we know of the world. Narrative takes us deeper than our recognition, opening us up to myth, history, allegory and moral struggle. Narrative art strives to tell us stories that go beyond our day to day comprehension, opening up the fields of time and space in new and surprising ways.
In Western art history, narrative subjects were the dominant themes explored from Greco-Roman times up through the late 19th Century. Our art history is full of image of biblical stories, wars and conquests, heroic deeds and cosmic exploits of gods and goddesses. Narrative lost favor as a mode of representation with the advent of modernist thought at the end of the 19th Century. Abstraction was the new critical art form and photography, print media, radio, television and the digital revolution became the dominant cultural storyteller up to our present moment.
Artists never abandoned narrative as an approach to artmaking. In the later part of the 20th century, narrative has been used as a critical tool to examine current social issues, often through the historic lens provided by art history. The artists selected for this exhibition use that grand Narrative tradition of the past centuries to tell us current stories of our struggles to understand our place in our modern world.
The Illinois State Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon until 4:30 p.m. Museum admission: $5 for adults ages 19-64; free admission for Members, youth, seniors, military, and veterans.