Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection

September 22-December 5, 2021
Main & Alsdorf Galleries
Admire Kamudzengerere and Rachel Monosov, Lake Chivero, August 31, 1972 (detail) from the series 1972, 2017. Purchase funds provided by Northern Trust, Hugh and Nancy Magill and the Andra S. and Irwin Press Collections Fund, 2017.7.

How do artists, artworks, and museums shape and challenge our understanding of the past?


In 2020-2021 Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art celebrates its 40th anniversary. Leading up to this milestone, The Block introduced a major initiative to acquire works of art that encourage critical thinking about the representation of history. This initiative and The Block’s anniversary celebration culminates with Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection, an exhibition inviting visitors to think critically about how artists, artworks, and museums engage with narratives of the past.

Highlighting more than eighty modern and contemporary artworks recently acquired by The Block Museum of Art, the exhibition considers our constantly changing understanding of the past through the lens of artistic practice. It features works by a wide-ranging selection of artists exploring the idea of history, such as Dawoud Bey, Shan Goshorn, the Guerrilla Girls, Louise Lawler, Kerry James Marshall, Catherine Opie, Walid Raad, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, and Kara Walker. The exhibition also includes a student-led acquisition for The Block’s collection, the focus of a Spring 2020 undergraduate seminar investigating museum collecting practices.

The exhibition borrows its title and an entry point from a work in The Block’s collection by conceptual artist Louise Lawler, Who Says, Who Shows, Who Counts (1990), which draws attention to barriers that exist within the art world. Organized around challenging questions of historical representation within artworks and institutions, the exhibition asks:

  • How can art help us reflect upon, question, rewrite, or reimagine the past?
  • Who has been represented in visual art, how, and by whom?
  •  How is history etched onto a landscape or erased from it?
  •  How do museums and galleries shape our view of the past?

An accompanying publication deepens the exhibition’s exploration of The Block’s collection. Showcasing the depth and breadth of recent acquisitions, more than fifty short essays reflect the perspectives of over twenty different academic units. Further essays illustrate the museum's commitment to collecting works of art that connect to Northwestern's broad curriculum and deepen representation of global modern and contemporary culture from multiple perspectives.

Including voices from students, alumni, faculty, and staff, Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts invites visitors to reflect on the ways in which art can facilitate multidisciplinary connections, ask challenging questions, and tell stories about issues relevant to our lives.

Curated by Essi Rönkkö, Associate Curator of Collections and Kate Hadley Toftness, Senior Advancement Manager, Grants and Collection Council. This exhibition is supported by the David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, Ellen and Howard Katz, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and the Mary and Leigh Block Endowment.

 

Explore Exhibition Works

Highlighting more than 80 modern and contemporary artworks recently acquired by The Block Museum of Art, the exhibition considers our constantly changing understanding of the past through the lens of artistic practice.  Explore the works from Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts in our collection database.

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Exhibition Publication

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Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection

Essi Rönkkö (Editor) Kate Hadley Toftness (Editor) |  Published by The Block Museum of Art |  Distributed by Northwestern University Press |  September 2021 |  144 pages |  Softcover |  ISBN 978-1-7325684-2-6 | $25.00

Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection invites readers to think critically about how artists, artworks, and museums engage with narratives of the past. Highlighting more than fifty contemporary artworks recently acquired by the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, the book considers our constantly changing understanding of the past through the lens of artistic practice. [More]

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Media Kit

Journalists are invited to download images related to the exhibition. For additional media inquiries please contact Lindsay Bosch, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications (lindsay.bosch@northwestern.edu)

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thinking-about-history-black-logo.pngThis exhibition is presented as part of Thinking about History with The Block's Collection.  This year-long initiative marks The Block Museum of Art's 40th anniversary with projects, programs, and events that use the museum's evolving collection as a springboard for thinking about history.