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Branded and On Display 
January 17—March 30, 2008
Tisch Gallery

Ours is a culture defined by marketing and acquiring. With one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, a compulsive shopper, this just may be part of the definition of being American. Virtually every activity in our lives is experienced through purchases, from layettes to caskets. Branded and On Display is the first exhibition to examine the work of artists who explore this dominant cultural phenomenon. The pioneering exhibition at Tate Liverpool and Shirn Kunstalle Frankfurt, Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer and Culture provided an encyclopedic and historical survey of the subject considered in its broadest terms. Branded and On Display offers a focused investigation of artwork that critically examines the practices and manipulations of consumer exchanges. In a range of media (sculpture, video, installation, sound, painting, photography) the work, including some key historical Pop pieces, is compelling, provocative, funny, nudging us to re-view our culture with an appraising eye.

This exhibition is organized by the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Participating Artists: Ai Weiwei, Siebren Versteeg, Michael Blum, Terence Gower, Clay Ketter, Haim Steinbach, Donna Nield, Conrad Bakker, Tempi + Wolf, Brian Ulrich, Ashley Bickerton, Hank Willis Thomas, Laurie Hogan, Amy Barkow, Yuken Teroya, Louis Cameron, Diller + Scofidio, Ryan McGinness, Phillipe Parreno & Pierre Huyghe, and Zhao Bandi. Click here for an illustrated checklist.

Exhibition Curators: Judith Hoos Fox and Ginger Gregg Duggan

Judith Hoos Fox is currently a visiting curator at the Krannert Art Museum, after nineteen years at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, and curatorial positions at the Museum of Art, RISD; ICA Boston; and the Harvard University Art Museums. Her recent projects include group exhibitions OVER+OVER: A Passion for Process and Pattern Language: Clothing as Communicator.

Ginger Gregg Duggan is an independent curator and founder of Remote Control Curatorial, LLC. She has held curatorial posts at the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle and the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. Recent projects areFashion: The Greatest Show on Earth, a major multimedia exhibition on fashion shows as performance art, and OVER + OVER: A Passion for Process. Duggan teaches and writes on contemporary art.

catalogue excerpt:

Children of the Brand
Daniel Thomas Cook

Branding, first and foremost, resides in the realm of design. It is the quintessential marriage of art and commerce, often inspired by aesthetic sensibility and intuition while being informed by market research. Branding does not arise from the impetus of making art for art’s sake and it does not seek to call out the critical, reflective capacities of its target audience. The purpose of branding generally is to nullify reflexive choice by fusing positive, affective associations between products or experiences and an audience. Brands – their iconography, acoustics, tastes, physical feelings, and smells – coax us to react but not to analyze.

Brands, brand “loyalty,” and branding represent a fusion of contemporary hyper-stylization with hyper-commercialism whereby every moment and element of life is to be infused not just with “style” or “beauty,” but with an emotional bonding to a corporate entity. At least, this is the dream of a brand manager. Art, in its most general sense, serves as an ideal vehicle for cathecting such attachments because it strikes us at a pre-analytical level. We experience it and react to it before we can reflect on it. This is the power of art and aesthetics, and hence the power of branding.

Hank Willis Thomas, Branded Head, 2003, digital C-print mounted to Plexiglass, 96 x 60 inches, courtesy of Jack Shainman, New York
Ai Weiwei, Neolithic Culture Pot with Coca-Cola Logo, 1992, neolithic pot with acrylic paint, 12 x 13 1/8 inches, courtesy of the artist