The Dean's Gallery MIT Sloan School of Management, Bldg. E-60-300

Dean's Gallery: Elbow Room

ShowingAugust 15, 2016 - August 7, 2017

The Dean's Gallery MIT Sloan School of Management, Bldg. E-60-300

On view at: The Dean’s Gallery MIT Sloan School of Management, Bldg. E-60-300, 30 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Are we deterministic machines with no real freedom of action or do we in fact have some elbow room, some real choice in our behavior?
Daniel C. Dennett

This exhibition draws on work from eleven artists in the List Center’s collection that address freedom and fate, and consider artistic freedom in relation to the laws of science. How does this tension function in the context of making a work of art? Is the framed composition determined before a photographer snaps the shutter? Or is it perhaps the fluidity—the “elbow room”—between all the moments that preceded the exposure, the artist’s aesthetic decisions, and the subsequent chemical processes that constitutes the image? The exhibition features artists Rosa Barba, Nicole Cherubini, Hanne Darboven, David Taverner Hanson, Helen Mirra, Luther Price, Eileen Quinlan, Katrín Sigurdardóttir, Andy Warhol, Cerith Wyn Evans, and Brian Zink.

Rosa Barba, Nicole Cherubini, Luther Price, and Katrín Sigurdardóttir let scientific processes influence their materials and the outcome of their work. Luther Price, for example, buries slide film and subjects it to the impact of soil, water, and nutrients, while the unnatural colors in Rosa Barba’s aerial photograph are the result of a faulty chemical bath in a film lab. Hanne Darboven, Eileen Quinlan, and Brian Zink work creatively within the constraints of the laws of science, and at times define their own rules. Eileen Quinlan, who in her own, tongue-in-cheek words is interested in “photography’s scientific applications―it’s supposed ability to give evidence,” highlights photography’s capacity to deceive. Throughout her work, Darboven developed methods and systems to articulate her relationship to mathematics, time, writing, and music irrespective of scientific validity.

The artists in this exhibition, in a variety of ways, embrace chance and relinquish a measure of control in their artistic practice. This decision is a defined part of their process, suggesting that there is indeed some elbow room between intent and the resulting work of art.

Organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center. Curated by Assistant Curator, Public art and Exhibitions, Alise Upitis.

  • Rosa Barba, Subconscious Society - photochemical mistakes, 2013
    35mm film still, print on paper
    22.4 x 35.4 in.
    Purchased with Funds from the Alan May Endowment

  • Nicole Cherubini, Silk, 2012
    ink, graphite, enamel, gouache, acrylic on paper
    27 x 20 in.
    Purchased with Funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art

  • Helen Mirra, 2nd walking commas, 8 October & 29 May, 2014
    black and white photographs and text in 2 framed parts
    10.5 x 17 in. each
    Purchase with Funds from MIT Friends of Boston Art

  • Eileen Quinlan, Dispatch #11, 2008
    unique Polaroid
    5 in. x 4 in.
    Purchased with major funding from a special allocation from the Council for the Arts at MIT in honor of its 40th anniversary with additional gifts from Gerald Appelstein, Karen & Greg Arenson, Eran & Feigue Broshy, Rhea Cohen, Colleen Messing, L Nichols & Christina Chestnut, Jane Pappalardo, John & Cynthia Reed, Sarah Sarvis & Federico Milla.

  • Cerith Wyn Evans, Brasilia  01.09.04, 2006
    C-print on paper
    14 in. x 17.25 in.
    Purchased with funds from the John Taylor Endowment

  • Hanne Darboven, Tagesrechnung, 2004
    digital print with original vintage postcard
    15.5 in x 18.5 in.
    Purchased with funds from the Student Center Preview Program