Allison Grant standing in front of SEMICONDUCTOR’s Black Rain, 2009
Allison Grant is fascinated by the way evolution shapes human nature. This fascination formed the foundation of her curatorial debut at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Our Origins, which opens July 29, 2011.
Featuring works by Aspen Mays, Jason Lazarus and Jenny Akerlund, among others, Our Origins tackles human’s efforts to describe their nature, their shared evolutionary past and their relation to the cosmos through both artistic expression and scientific analysis.
“The show looks at humans’ attempts to trace our origins beyond recorded history and look at the questions that end up really being unanswerable,” says Grant. “I think it asks pretty big questions and it doesn’t even start to answer them. I hope people will leave with a sense of wonder.”
According to Grant, who has worked at the MoCP since 2008, the idea behind the show came to her when artist Alison Ruttan submitted a portfolio to the MoCP for review. This particular portfolio of Ruttan’s work explored the links between humans and primates that ultimately suggested a common ancestor.
“I knew I wanted to do a show about science,” says Grant, “and I knew I wanted her to be in the show. So, that was really the springboard.” From there, Grant says she began looking at other artists whose work deals with humans’ place within the cosmos, beginning with the Big Bang.
“I’m really excited about the SEMICONDUCTOR video,” says Grant. “It’s a spectacular vertical piece of footage taken from a NASA camera orbiting the Earth. It was supposed to videotape the sun, but it swings a bit and instead takes in much more of the galaxy.”
The show also includes work by Rachel Sussman, Julia Büttelmann, Alison Carey, Eric William Carroll, Michelle Ceja, Ken Fandell, Scott McFarland, Patricia Piccinini, Mark Ruwedel, Jennifer Ray and Penelope Umbrico.
In conjunction with the show, which runs through October 16, the MoCP will be hosting the following events:
• Aug. 25 at 6pm – Behavioral Brethren: Links Between Human and Non-human Primates, a conversation moderated by WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer between artist Alison Ruttan and Laurie Santos, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University
• Sept. 8 at 4pm – Opening Reception and Gallery Talk, a discussion with artists Alison Carey, Ken Fandell, Jennifer Ray and Alison Ruttan moderated by curator Allison Grant, followed by a reception and stargazing in Grant Park with astronomer Joe Guzman
• Oct. 4 at 6pm – Beyond Visibility: Photography and Our Connection to the Cosmos, a conversation with artist Aspen Mays and Kathryn Schaffer, PhD from the University of Chicago