Temporarily closed to the public under Chicago’s stay-at-home advisory, the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago welcomed Berlin-based artist Claudia Wieser’s exhibition Generations in early October. Moderated by the museum’s adjunct curator and Mary L. Block Professor of Art History Christine Mehring, the artist participated in a panel discussion about the seven-year-span of work in this show.
Joined by chief curator of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Rachel Adams and associate curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum Jennifer Carty, the panel discussion addressed the trajectory of Wieser’s work as well as the legacy of context interwoven through each of her pieces. The discussion also delved into the consequence of space and how the materials she engages with emphasize the art historical thrust of her practice.
Formally trained as a blacksmith, Wieser’s approach to art-making is informed by the “total work of art” concepts attributed to the early days of the Bauhaus, particularly the enigmatic and unconventional father of Chicago’s New Bauhaus, László Moholy-Nagy. Her spherical structures, multifaceted mirrors, and gold leaf geometrics hark back to her discovery of Bauhaus aesthetics in her early twenties, the current exhibition a realized departure from the boundaries enforced by Munich’s art scene at the time.
Normally, Wieser would visit a gallery then build a model back in her studio where she’d determine her choice of works, but travel restrictions and health and safety guidelines required she work from memory to curate much of her first large show in the United States. The drastic differences between the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Smart Museum of Art presented a unique set of challenges for the artist which reinforced both her process of art-making and the influence of her predecessors.
“Space really matters,” Wieser emphasized during the panel discussion. “Almost like two different shows. We have the same objects but they come out so differently and that’s what I really liked about it. It was exciting to work within these totally different circumstances.”
The artist’s relationship with craft and the act of making are evident in each of her distinctive pieces from hand-painted and patterned ceramics to the site-specific wallpapers she made for this show. On display virtually through the Smart Museum website, “Generations” considers the synchronicity between abstraction and experience as well as the trajectory of an artist and the rhythm of her work.