Wallach Art Gallery Exhibition Examines Europe After the Berlin Wall
Feb. 9, 2011
A new exhibit at Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery considers the social and democratic impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Europe. Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)possible will be on display through March 26, 2011.
Exhibition curator Kerry Oliver-Smith and artist Dan Perjovschi discuss Project Europa. (2:59)
Alexander Alberro, the Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History at Barnard College and Columbia, played a large role in bringing the show to the University. Alberro, who arrived at Columbia in September 2008, co-organized a major international symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition's original presentation at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, where he was formerly a professor. His involvement with that project led to his advocating for the exhibition to travel to the Wallach Art Gallery.
Alberro cites the show’s timeliness as one of the reasons he worked to bring it to Columbia. “The shift in world order that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states has rendered our relationship to the metropolitan centers of Europe more complex than ever,” he said. “It is crucial that we understand the fundamental ways in which the cultural and political ideals of Europe are changing, as well as our current commitment to those ideals.”
In all, 19 artists contributed a range of work to the exhibition, including photography, video, painting and sculpture. The artists represent 13 nationalities from across Europe, as well as Africa, Asia and the U.S. Organized by curator Kerry Oliver-Smith of the Harn Museum, Project Europa includes the work of Francis Alÿs, Kader Attia, Yto Barrada, Marcel Odenbach, Dan Perjovschi, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, and Superflex.
Two artists in particular, Kader Attia and Dan Perjovschi, contributed artwork that is unique to the Wallach Gallery space. Both artists reproduced large-scale paintings that address the conflicts unique to their respective homelands. Attia, who is French-Algerian, reflects on his upbringing in the densely populated, impoverished and largely Muslim suburbs of Paris. His black and white paintings consist of small rectangles in patterns that climb the gallery walls, evoking stacks of crowded suburban buildings.
Similarly, Perjovschi says his upbringing in communist Romania has had a significant impact on his work. “I came from a country with no underground,” he said. “Everything was under control.” So Perjovschi has created his own kind of underground, drawing cartoon-like scenes across the gallery walls that depict and often satirize the last two decades of European political, social and economic development.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery will host an international symposium on Feb. 11 moderated by professor Alberro. Focusing on European democracy, the panel’s speakers will include art history professors, critics and curators. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Schermerhorn Hall at 1:30 p.m. There will also be a gallery talk with curator Kerry Oliver-Smith on Feb. 12 at noon in the gallery space.