October 10, 2016 by: Natalie Fleming
Please join us for the opening of The Measure of All Things: Rethinking Humanism through Art on Thursday, October 13th from 5-7. The exhibition features sixteen artists whose work calls on us to rethink our reliance on the philosophy of humanism, including three MFA students in the Department of Art, Rachel Shelton, James Eric Simpson, and Van Tran Nguyen.
The ancient philosopher Protagoras famously claimed: “Of all things the measure is Man.” In response, the curators ask: “What is Man?” Ask this question to more than one person and you will most likely get more than one answer.
The artists in this show interrogate the legacy of humanism while posing alternatives to an anthropocentric framework. Works by the artists Helen Hess, Verena Andrea Prenner, Maria Bilbao·Herrera, and UB Department of Art MFA student Rachel Shelton, disturb our distinctions between the human and the nonhuman through practices based on documentation, repetition, and exchange. Artists Tanya Chaly, Victoria Fuller, Richard Allen, and MFA student James Eric Simpson visually record the global impact of our anthropocentrism as a guiding principle in our systems of capitalism, environmentalism, health care, and cultural production. The work of Patty Wallace, Michael Beitz, Nava Atlas, and Michael Salvatore Tierney blur the conventional boundaries that distinguish nature from humanity. Through the eyes of these artists, we see humans in self-imposed cages while flora and fauna are personified and gendered, both as agents of change and helpless signifiers of human desire. Alyce Santoro, Katharina Poggendorf-Kakar, Günes-Hélène Isitan, and MFA student Van Tran Nguyen expand our notion of communication with the nonhuman. In their work, birds, mushrooms, single-cell organisms, and even rocks interact, connect, and create, along with, for, and against their (mostly) human audience.
The Measure of All Things: Rethinking Humanism through Art destabilizes our false dichotomies, our hierarchies, and our claims of originality (The single-cell organisms in the exhibition might ask what is so wrong with being a copy anyway). No longer limited by Man as the measure of all things, we can reconsider our relationships and responsibilities within a world where we are all inextricably interconnected.