Insight and Identity : Contemporary Artists and Gertrude Stein

The exhibition was developed to coincide with the National Portrait Gallery’s “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” curated by Wanda Corn, the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University. Insight and Identity featured the work of contemporary artists from the United States, Australia, and Germany who use Stein’s texts to create new forms and extensions that challenge traditional modes and structures. In doing so, the artists honor the persona and spirit of Stein, joining her in the search for twenty-first century interpretations of the important literary works she authored. The exhibition also contained the Gertrude Stein works that inspired the artists. These included first editions ranging from 1909 through 1939, as well as later reimaginings of the original books.

Using Stein’s Composition as Explanation as a primary source, Suzanne Bellamy’s Woolf/Stein Series in mixed media on paper creates a visual dialogue between images and text by two authors: Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf. Katrina Rodabaugh’s The Dresses/Objects Project prints Stein’s poetry from Tender Buttons, on to recycled fabric that is then designed into period clothing. Sally Schuh worked with a typewriter to produce her portfolio Typewritten, containing works on paper using text as image to investigate visual interpretations of written and spoken language. Terry Berlier’s mixed media sound sculpture Human Tuning Fork #4 uses repetition by projecting endless loops of Stein’s mantra-like text in various languages.

Laura Davidson’s miniature tribute to Stein, Tender Buttons, Tenderly features text from the original work. Anne Büssow’s A Whole – Ein Ganzes is a hand printed and bound book featuring handset texts from The Making of Americans in English and German, with 33 color woodcuts. Gisela Zuchner-Mogall, a German-born artist living in Australia, hand-copied the entire The Making of Americans on to multi-layered pages of text, fifty of which are displayed in the exhibition. Also included are illustrations by Tom Hachtman for a new children’s book Gertrude and Alice and Fritz and Tom by Hans Gallas. Inspired by the artists, writers and Parisian cityscape that dominate Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Hachtman’s drawings and Gallas’ prose introduce Gertrude and Alice to a whole new audience.

Insight and Identity was co-curated by Dyana Curreri-Ermatinger, Director of the International Art Museum (San Francisco) and Hans Gallas, collector, writer, and contributor to many seminal Stein exhibitions.