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Powering Exchange: Teaching Objects in Transformation

Sunday, August 21, 2022 at 11:00am to 4:00pm

Johnson Museum of Art, in the wing gallery, Floor 2L
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 114 Central Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Powering Exchange was curated by the Johnson’s Education Department to support teaching at Cornell and in the broader community, in consultation with educators across Tompkins County. The installation’s cross-cultural approach and themes of power, exchange, and transformation were selected for their curricular relevance to a range of disciplines and age groups.

Combining works of art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Powering Exchange explores how art across cultures may confer power and prestige, facilitate trade and exchange, or effect bodily, social, or spiritual transformation. The display juxtaposes artworks from different times, places, and artistic traditions in order to spark novel understandings of these ideas and of the artworks themselves. An expert ceramicist whose name was not recorded neighbors a high-profile contemporary photographer. Materials meant only to be looked at border articles intended to be worn. A mask made for ceremonial use stands next to a painting created to be hung on a gallery wall.

Importantly, every artwork, whether in a frame or case, is only a fragment of an earlier, greater context. Brought together in new ways, these fragments have the power to suggest new insights into their earlier, individual contexts as well as into common concerns.

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Exhibit, Exhibition


Johnson Museum of Art

University Themes

Campus Life, Public Engagement


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