Visual Arts gains three new faculty membersBy Jennifer Carnig
Visual Arts has grown up a lot in the year since it was first recognized as a department. Not only has it been working with a record number of students and started a partnership with the Hyde Park Art Center, but the Department of Visual Arts can now add another impressive notch to its belt—three internationally known artists will join the faculty this fall.
Joining the department are Tania Bruguera, a native of Cuba, who produces political art primarily through video and digital media; I–igo Manglano-Ovalle, a visual and conceptual artist who works in all mediums to explore issues of identity, globalization and science; and Los Angeles native Catherine Sullivan, a performance artist with a theater background who addresses cultural assimilation and personal behavior.
“This is a huge addition to our faculty,” said Laura Letinsky, Chair and Professor in Visual Arts. “They are all really unique and exciting, but more than that they are also really active artists, making art and exhibiting all the time.”
Bruguera lives and works in both Chicago and Havana. Founder and director of Arte de Conducta, the first performance studies program in Latin America, Bruguera comes to the University from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1998 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship; and in 2000 she earned the Prince Claus Award.
Informed and shaped by her upbringing in a communist country, Bruguera said she works primarily on political subjects.
“Everything is a political act,” she said. “Everything you do is a political response to your environment, but I’m interested in the moment when politics and emotions coincide.”
Of course, politics in Cuba means something different than politics in the United States, she said. “There, because the government is so present in almost every aspect of one’s life, politics is singled out as a response to the government, ignoring other structures of power.”
Bruguera has most recently worked with issues of behavior and social conduct, creating installations and situations in which the viewer has to react and interact with the piece, “provoking some sort of moment when one has to stop and think about how they should behave or question why they have behaved the way that they did.”
Bruguera graduated from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and earned an M.F.A. with a merit scholarship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She comes to the University interested in interdisciplinarity and looking to work with faculty from a variety of backgrounds.
“I am very enthusiastic about the idea that my peers will not only be visual artists, but physicists and sociologists,” Bruguera said. “I am really proud to get to work with these people.”
Manglano-Ovalle has exhibited his artwork at numerous nationally and internationally acclaimed institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York, the Sao Paulo Biennial and the Ruffino Tamayo Museum in Mexico City. Other installations of his work have appeared in Barcelona, Venice, Frankfurt and Singapore, as well as in Chicago at the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The New York Times has called his hanging sculpture representing a digital analysis of a thunderstorm cloud “possibly the most beautiful object to be found in a contemporary art gallery in New York.”
The recipient of a 2001 MacArthur “genius” grant, Manglano-Ovalle comes to the University from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Born in Madrid, he was raised both in Bogot‡, Colombia, and Chicago, and his work reflects his international upbringing. A visual and conceptual artist who works in photography, sculpture, video and installation, Manglano-Ovalle works with researchers and laboratories in his “interdisciplinary address of issues of hybrid identities in a climate of globalization.”
Among his honors are a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship, an Award for Excellence in Design from the City of New York and an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award.
Currently Manglano-Ovalle is working with UNESCO’s World Heritage Foundation and the Berkeley Museum to create a project situated in the Vizcaino Bio-Preserve in Baja Sur, Mexico. In Chicago, he is working with members of Argonne National Laboratory to create a weather station adorning the faŤade of the new Hyde Park Art Center.
Manglano-Ovalle graduated from Williams College and earned an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sullivan earned a B.A. in acting from the California Institute of the Arts and an M.F.A. in painting, sculpture and video art from the Art Center College of Design. She combines these media with her training in traditional Japanese butoh dance in her work.
For the past several years, Sullivan has presented theater and film installations in fine arts venues, including the Renaissance Society, presenting live action projects with critically oriented content in cinematic forms.
“I’m interested in issues of cultural regimentation and assimilation as it relates to the codification of behavior,” she said.
Born in California, Sullivan has spent much of her career working in Los Angeles, although over the past four years she has been residing both in Chicago and in Berlin through a fellowship with the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. The city of Chicago and its surroundings have informed Sullivan’s work, such as two film works she created here: one with an Eastern European theme shot in the Polish Army Veterans Association in Irving Park, and another using an abandoned office interior on North Avenue in the Austin neighborhood.
Though Sullivan has taught at the Otis College of Art and Design, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Art Center College of Design and the University of Southern California, she comes to Chicago after taking a break from academia.
“I’ve missed that academic environment,” she said. “The art world does not offer the kind of discourse that an academic setting does, and I really missed the more rigorous discussions about art.”
Sullivan was attracted to the University’s Visual Arts program because of its humanities environment, as opposed to a more segregated art school environment.
“I’m really looking forward to encountering a diverse student group, seeing how an Anthropology student works with video or how an Art History student confronts making something,” she said. “Those kinds of encounters, where a student applies what they know to a whole new field, create some exciting projects. It is an interesting manifestation of their knowledge and education that is not a term paper, but equally important.”
All three artists have been wooed by a variety of colleges, universities and art schools, and they credited Letinsky and Danielle Allen, Dean of the Division of the Humanities, with bringing them here.
These new faculty members convey a “strong theoretical core that aligns itself nicely with the University,” said Letinsky.
Not only do they each carry successful resumes and critical acclaim, Letinsky said, but their inclusion in the faculty signals big things in the future for Visual Arts. It also communicates that the University as a whole is moving to perceive participation in the arts as a vital, intellectual activity.
“Making art is the equivalent of writing a paper or publishing a book,” she said. “So it is wonderful to have such vibrant individuals joining our intellectual community.”