May 24, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 17

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    Shahn show serves as one session in ‘Points of Contact’ series

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    On Friday, May 18, students, scholars, journalists, curators and artists from around Chicago gathered at the Smart Museum of Art for “Points of Contact,” a continuing series related to current exhibitions at the museum. As Jackie Terrassa, Education Director at the Smart Museum, explained, “Points of Contact” addresses current issues in the visual arts by engaging a broad-ranging group of people in conversation as equal participants.

    During the discussion, moderators Bob Peters, Associate Professor in the Committee on Visual Arts, and Carol Becker, dean of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, led a discussion of activism in art practice. In particular, the group examined how and why definitions and strategies have changed since the 1930s.

    The conversation stemmed from Ben Shahn’s socially-committed practice, evidenced in “Ben Shahn’s New York: The Photography of Modern Times,” an exhibition of Shahn’s work on view at the Smart Museum through Sunday, June 10.

    In the 1930s, Shahn abandoned his interest in European modernism and began creating realist art related to the social reform issues that dominated public debates of his day. The social-realist vision present in his images was shaped by his commitment to leftist politics and his interest in the power of mass media.

    Between 1932 and 1935, Shahn joined the vanguard of the social documentary movement, making images that defined street life in New York through the prosaic activities and gestures of ordinary people. The exhibition explores how his earliest photographs also inspired many of his most important paintings, murals and drawings.

    More information about the exhibition or the “Points of Contact” series is available by phoning the Smart Museum at 702-0200, or visiting the Smart’s Web site at: www.smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.