Very Early Pictures

Arcadia Exhibitions Presents

Very Early Pictures

September 6 – October 30, 2005

Drawings (and works in other media) made by contemporary artists when they were children.

Wednesday, Sept 28, 6:30 PM

Lecture: Gifts of Seeing: Thoughts on Art and Childhood by Dr. Jonathan Fineberg, Stiteler Auditorium, Murphy Hall 
Opening reception following immediately in the art gallery.

This acclaimed art historian and writer will discuss his ongoing study of childhood works by significant artists from the sixteenth century to the late twentieth-century. In addition to editing Discovering Child Art: Essays on Childhood, Primitivism and Modernism (1998), Fineberg is the author two related books, The Innocent Eye: Children's Art and The Modern Artist (1997) and the forthcoming When We Were Young: The Art of the Child.

Participating Artists

Polly Apfelbaum, Kjetil Berge, Rachel Bliss, Shannon Bowser, Elizabeth Bryant, Charles Burns, Mason Cooley, Patricia Cronin, Dorothy Cross, Russell Crotty, Tony de los Reyes, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Wim Delvoye, Daniel Douke, Anda Dubinskis, Marlene Dumas, Tim Ebner, Joy Feasley, Chris Finley, Mathew Hale, Steve Hanson, Doug Harvey, Mona Hatoum, Jim Hinz, Julian Hoeber, Jim Houser, Martin Honert, Tehching Hsieh, Yvonne Jacquette, Kim Jones, Alex Kanevsky, Deborah Kass, Glenn Ligon, Tristin Lowe, Christopher Knowles, Kerry James Marshall, Virgil Marti, Sarah McEneaney, Gerald Nichols, David Reed, Marco Rios, Kay Rosen, Adam Ross, Ed Ruscha, Hinrich Sachs, Judith Schaechter, Carolee Schneemann, Anne Seidman, Randall Sellers, Jim Shaw, Shelley Spector, Paul Swenbeck, Jude Tallichet, Dani Tull, Jeffrey Vallance, Marnie Weber, Olav Westphalen, Fred Wilson, Barbara Woodall, and Andrew Jeffrey Wright.

Each of the more than 150 works that comprise this exhibition were completed between the early 1940s and mid-1980s by children between the ages of two and sixteen, all of whom developed into practicing adult artists. Traveling from the Luckman Gallery (California State University, Los Angeles) where it opened in late May, the exhibition builds upon the familiarity of the show’s two audiences with the mature work of LA- and Philadelphia-based talent along with that of artists recognized internationally.

Emphasizing the relativity of the words very and early, the exhibition places the graphic production of children and teens in a generative context intended to propose speculative connections between the individual works on view, the mature works that followed, and the broader developments of 20th century art. The exhibition also strives to sanction an activity that, until recently, has generally been excluded from contemporary discourse despite the contribution of children's art to our concept of modernism and its identity as the source of one of modernism's most enduring critiques—the notion that "any child could do that." Installed clockwise around the space according the age of the artist at the time each work was made, the exhibition provides an unusual opportunity to witness the year-by-year development of childhood drawing. Beginning with the uninhibited efforts of the very young, this continuum proceeds to include authentic products of adolescent sensibility, a condition long exploited by popular culture and now being mined by contemporary artists.

“Very Early Pictures” responds in part to an increasing number of recent projects and exhibitions by contemporary artists that incorporate or refer explicitly to their own childhood production. Some of the earliest examples in the exhibition reflect the formal ingenuity and expressive, performative spontaneity that inspired classic modernists such as Miro, Picasso, and Klee, who most famously collected and studied his own childhood drawings. On the other hand, the searching, self-conscious images by some teenagers seem to mirror the hybrid conditions of postmodernism. In many cases, the links between an artist's childhood work in the exhibition and his or her adult practice seems arbitrary or nonexistent. Several examples, however, stand out as evidence of surprising artistic prescience while others offer a fascinating glimpse at the way current events and popular culture have increasingly captivated children as subject matter. Regardless of any possible affinities these early drawings may possess with mature works by the same individual, each piece hints at an idealized engagement with art-making that remains a goal for artists of any age.

Dr. Jonathan Fineberg, who will lecture prior to the opening reception on Wednesday, September 28, is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on the subject of children’s work by recognized artists. In addition to The Innocent Eye: Children’s Art and the Modern Artist (1997) and the forthcoming When We Were Young: the Art of the Child, he is also the author of Art after 1940: Strategies of Being (1995/2000, Prentice Hall), a survey textbook now in its second printing.

About Dr. Jonathan Fineberg

Jonathan Fineberg is Gutgsell Professor of Art History, Visiting Professor in Computer Science, and University Scholar at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and trained as a research candidate in psychoanalysis at the Boston and Western New England Institutes for Psychoanalysis. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard, and Columbia Universities and is a trustee of The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

He has won numerous awards including the 1969 Pulitzer Fellowship in Critical Writing, the National Endowment for the Arts Art Critic's Fellowship, the Dedalus Foundation Senior Research Fellowship, and the College Art Association’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in the History of Art. He has curated major exhibitions in the United States and abroad and published more than a dozen books and catalogs as well as over 40 articles in journals ranging from Artforum to The New York Times. He is known for his persevering interest in emerging artists and his work on the psychology of creativity. His most recent books are Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On the Way to the Gates, The Innocent Eye: Children's Art and the Modern Artist, and Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being (soon to appear in a 3rd edition).

He has just completed a book and a two-hour PBS television special (in collaboration with his colleague John Carlin) called Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art. The program will air network wide on December 28th of 2005 and the book is being released by Yale University Press in October 2005. Also forthcoming in 2007 is his book and exhibition catalogue: When We Were Young: The Art of the Child(University of California Press).