Remixing the Hall: WCMA’s Collection in Perpetual Transition

Williams Features New Acquisitions

By: - Apr 22, 2022

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is pleased to present the next iteration of Remixing the Hall: WCMA’s Collection in Perpetual Transition. This ongoing exhibition reinterprets the museum’s encyclopedic collection through thematic groupings, highlighting new research, new acquisitions, and new curatorial voices. Drawing from the more than 15,000 objects in WCMA’s collection, a group of five curators, including three Mellon Curatorial Fellows, have selected objects for display that span millennia and the globe, addressing timely issues and evoking timeless ones.

Themes explored in this installation include domesticity, growth, and the divine. The section exploring art of daily life features an Etruscan drinking vessel, 20th-century Yoruba beaded shoes, a 19th-century silver egg server crafted in British occupied Calcutta (present-day Kolkata, India), and a wood chair from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Objects illustrating ideas of growth include Samuel Joseph Brown’s Boy in the White Suit (ca. 1940–41), alluding to the promise of youth; Kenjilo Nanao’s Night Flower III (1976), depicting radical blooming in unfavorable conditions; a 17th-century Indian painting from a ragmala set, and a 16th-century engraving after Albrecht Dürer of a Virgin and Child in a Landscape. A display case gathers devotional objects from Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and ancient Egyptian traditions such as a medieval Book of Hours, a Qur’an prayer board, and a statuette of Isis.

The expanded presentation is also a showcase for several works chosen by students in the Fall 2021 course Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Art for WCMA. In a gallery space focused on the theme of embodiment, Salvadoran American artist Guadalupe Maravilla’s Disease Thrower #10 is a monumental sculptural installation designed to be activated by the presence of both a healer and a person(s) desiring freedom from disease. The gong at its center is played in the artist’s sound bath performances, which draw on Indigenous and pre-colonial knowledge as well as Maravilla’s personal history, to create a contemporary healing ritual with political resonances.

Another artist whose work has entered WCMA’s collection through the Acquiring Art course is Allison Janae Hamilton (b. 1984, Lexington, Kentucky). Her Alligator Creature sculpture and Wacissa video installation join Remixing the Hall’s exploration of 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke’s concept of the sublime. Wacissa shows a destabilizing trip down a canal, which was built by enslaved Black labor, and is now ravaged by climate change. Adorned with pastel flowers, Hamilton’s Alligator Creature reflects the artist's interest in taxidermy and can be viewed as an immortalized inhabitant lurking in the watery world of Wacissa.

“This methodology of research, collaboration, and reinterpretation is a process that is yielding inventive ways of showing our robust collection in Lawrence Hall, the museum’s longtime home,” states Pamela Franks. “It is also enabling us to envision the programmatic possibilities for installations of the growing collection in our new museum building, slated to open in WCMA’s centennial year of 2026. This is work we began in earnest in 2019, as we examined our collection—which, like that of most art museums, is shaped by the Western canon—and sought ways to redress often incomplete histories of artistic achievement. It is work we will continue and expand upon in Lawrence Hall even as our building project progresses over the next four years.”

“At its heart, Remixing the Hall is about interrogating the collection as well as our institutional history,” explains Kevin M. Murphy, the Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of American and European Art. “Ideally, each iteration increases the transparency of WCMA’s values as we ask questions such as: How do we build a collection that reflects a range of identities and cultures, which speaks to the full spectrum of our campus community as well as to a global audience? How can permanent collection rotations illuminate connections within and among objects, foster critical conversations, and encourage visitors’ own meaning-making?”

Remixing the Hall is an invitation to discovery and dialogue. The new iteration opens Friday, April 22, 2022 and will remain on view through December 22, 2022. WCMA is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Exhibition Credit

Organized by Destinee Filmore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow and MA ’24; Jordan Horton, Mellon Curatorial Fellow and MA ’23; Nicholas Liou, Mellon Curatorial Fellow and MA ‘24; Kevin M. Murphy, the Eugenie Prendergast Senior Curator of American and European Art; and Elizabeth Sandoval, Curatorial Assistant and Acting Assistant Director, Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art