• Bruce Dorfman (American, born 1936), The Weight of Light, 2016
    canvas, wood, metal, paper, fabric, acrylic
    65 x 62 x 6 inches
    Gift of the artist, 2021.03.03.
    © Bruce Dorfman. Photo: E. G. Schempf, 2021.

    Bruce Dorfman (American, born 1936), The Weight of Light, 2016
    canvas, wood, metal, paper, fabric, acrylic
    65 x 62 x 6 inches
    Gift of the artist, 2021.03.03.
    © Bruce Dorfman. Photo: E. G. Schempf, 2021.

  • Chakaia Booker (American, born 1953), El Gato, 2001
    rubber tires and wood, 48 x 42 x 42 inches
    Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, Museum purchase, Enid and Crosby
    Kemper and William T. Kemper Acquisition Fund, 2004.12.01.
    © Chakaia Booker. Photo: E. G. Schempf, 2017.

    Chakaia Booker (American, born 1953), El Gato, 2001
    rubber tires and wood, 48 x 42 x 42 inches
    Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, Museum purchase, Enid and Crosby
    Kemper and William T. Kemper Acquisition Fund, 2004.12.01.
    © Chakaia Booker. Photo: E. G. Schempf, 2017.

Tensile Strength

Friday, November 4, 2022 to Sunday, February 12, 2023
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

 

Tensile strength, in science and engineering, is the resistance of a material to breaking under tension. Engaging with this definition, this exhibition displays a selection of works from the Kemper Museum Permanent Collection that embrace material fragility and/or endurance. The art featured in this gallery is stretched, snapped, salvaged, worn, assembled, and transformed either by human intervention or by forces of nature.

In part, this exhibition calls upon the history of assemblage and the found object, popularized by avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century such as Dadaism and Conceptual art. These influential movements developed as a result of the immense trauma of global war and rapid industrialization. Following in this legacy, the artists on view utilize everyday materials—tar, rubber, glass, soap, flora, and computer parts—or create works that approximate everyday life by combining materials in unexpected ways, such as the sculptural replica of a weathered building, House at Christmastime, Greensboro, Alabama (1993–94), by William Christenberry (American, 1936–2016). In doing so, these artists respond to their environments, breathing new life into the materials that they have carefully sourced and animated.

This exhibition arrives at a moment of deep social tension and infrastructural adversity in the United States. Tensile Strength marks our current state of fragility by focusing on the impermanent but lasting materials within our everyday lives. These materials, which often serve as apt representations of our lived experiences, wear and break under duress, but nonetheless persist through steady care, collection, and reinvention.

Tensile Strength is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Krista Alba, assistant curator.