Changing Values, Changing Times

Sam Goodsell, 2011, Jointly owned by USC Fisher Museum and USC Ronald Tudor Campus Center.
Sam Goodsell, 2011, Jointly owned by USC Fisher Museum and USC Ronald Tudor Campus Center.

January 14-March 7, 2015

The gift of six screen prints to the USC Fisher Museum of Art by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. inspired reflection on how artists represent, mirror, and shape values. These values are then refracted back in the artworks, comprising a record of human society in motion. The works in this exhibition range from an expression of certain, shared values in the family portraits of the seventeenth century, to the extreme individualism that Warhol imposed and then also celebrated in his portraiture, especially of his famous subjects. Indeed, it is in the genre of portraiture that we are most confronted by the changing values of then and now. We still enjoy looking at portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Angelica Kauffman but in our own contemporary times, we also resonate to the questions posed by Salomon Huerta as he challenges our stereotypes – for example, as he paints a portrait from behind.

Changing Values, Changing Times explores, through Fisher’s own collection, the traditional values of society, beginning in the age of the Baroque through the breakdown of such values into the 21st century. By means of family portraits, the representation of the trials of migration, and the mapping of deracination through painting, photography and printmaking, the art in our collections highlights some of the continuities and the ruptures that Western society has endured. Still there are contemporary artists like Sam Goodsell, who remain dedicated to rendering the figure wholly — with great bodily dignity — while in contrast, an artist such as Robert Farber focused, in the last years of years of his life, on the realistic rendering of a body defeated by illness. It is Farber’s own dignity that shines through the memorialization of the deterioration of the body.

At the same time, sculptures of the individual allow us to contemplate that break as well. The artists Ernst Wenck and Antoine Bourdelle epitomize on the one hand, the older neoclassical understanding of the individual as an idealized whole and on the one hand, and the emerging idea of the human being as fragmentary in the universe. It is no accident that Bourdelle was the teacher of Rodin who developed and radicalized ideas of the representation of the fragmented human being and actually of body parts themselves. Finally in the work of Selma Guisande viewers explore the body as a metaphor by means of which we can place ourselves in a greater, if relatively broken, society.

The Fisher has been instrumental in exploring issues of gender, national and racial identity, and the individual alone and in society for the last 75 years. This exhibition is one in a long line of many that we have presented in the hopes of challenging our visitors to think about art as an aesthetic experience that opens their minds to new ways of thinking and understanding the world around them.