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Presumed Innocence

Virginia Commonwealth University Anderson Gallery
January 16 - March 1, 1998
Opening January 16, 7-9pm

Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center
Sponsored by Mercantile Stores Company, Inc.
April 4 - June 7, 1998

 
Daily headlines in mass-media magazines like Newsweek and People tout horrifying tales played out in our society: "JonBenet Ramsey and the Culture of Child Abuse." "Rape, murder, a baby dead at a prom." "Too fat? Too thin?" "How media images of celebrities teach kids to hate their bodies." Striking statistics reveal that 70 percent of 12 to 13-year-olds know someone who drinks, and 29 percent know someone who has a gun. Has the Disneyesque view of childhood been lost forever?
 
Featuring over 60 works from 23 nationally and internationally renowned artists, Presumed Innocence investigated the ways childhood has been transformed by mass media, biotechnology and computers. Painting, sculpture, photography, film and video are all represented in this re-examination of "innocent" sterotypes in art from the last decade.
 
Included in the exhibition were the eerie video projections by Tony Oursler; mysterious and beautiful photographs by Sally Mann, Janet Biggs and Inez van Lamsweerde; an outlandish interactive installation by Paul McCarthy, where participants were required to don head-to-toe Pinocchio outfits; and the altered scale of sculpture by Daniel Oates. Other artists included Larry Clark, Taro Chiezo, Keith Cottingham, Kim Dingle, Todd Haynes, Mike Kelley, Julian Trigo, Alix Pearlstein and Lisa Yuskavage.
 
The exhibition was organized by the Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and was made possible through generous grants from the Museum Program of National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the Norton Family Foundation, and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.
 
A 96-page catalog accompanied the show with essays by curator Jean Crutchfield, art critic Kathryn Hixson and art historian Robert Hobbs.

Catalog Information:

Presumed Innocence 
1997. Softcover. 7 1/2" x 9", 80 pages., 52 illustrations., 42 in color,. Forward by Jean Crutchfield, Essays by Robert Hobbs and Kathryn Hixson. Published jointly by the Anderson Gallery and the University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97718-3 
$25.00 

Written in conjunction with the traveling exhibition, Presumed Innocence, organized by guest curator, Jean Crutchfield, the catalog presents the works of 23 artists who demonstrate how childhood has been transformed by mass media, biotechnology and cybernetics. Presumed Innocence  reinforces the fact that childhood is a dynamic and open-ended concept. The art contained in it represents a number of different even contradictory attitudes that provide a wide spectrum of societal roles that children are either expected to assume or defiantly act out.  It does not attempt to settle disagreement; instead, its choice of art intends to be a forum for analyzing it.

Throughout history the antithesis of childhood innocence have been sophistication, decadence, and evil. However, in the late twentieth century new attitudes toward youth have developed that collapse these former polarities. The 23 artists here undermine the presumption of naivete and demonstrate how childhood has been transformed by mass media, biotechnology, and cybernetics. Many works of art included here counter, through deliberate inversion, Disneyesque and edenic views of youth, while others conflate images of children and adults into visual cyborgs.

"Presumed Innocence" reinforces the fact that childhood is a dynamic and open-ended concept. The art contained in it represents a number of different and even contradictory attitudes that provide a wide spectrum of societal roles that children are either expected to assume or defiantly act out. It does not attempt to settle disagreement; instead, its choice of art intends to be a forum for analyzing it.

 

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