The Regional: Art from the American Midwest

This exhibition presents new work by 23 artists who have or are currently living and working in the Midwest. It's co-curated by Amara Antilla and Jade Powers.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Regional is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Installation view of "The Regional" (2022)Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The First of Its Kind

The first major multi-museum survey dedicated to contemporary artists based in the Midwest, The Regional  brings together work by 23 artists working across painting, photography, installation, and performance.

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Where is the "Midwest"?

Loosely defined as the area that stretches from the Dakotas along the Great Lakes to Michigan and Ohio to Minnesota along the Mississippi River through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, it is largely a construct bound by geography, sociocultural events, and historical commonalities.

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Six Major Themes

The exhibition contains six major themes; "landscape and abstraction", "immigrant experience and labor", "architecture and notions of home", "healing from from ethnic and racial traumas", "Americana and pop culture", and "portraiture and identity."

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Landscape and Abstraction

Using weaving, photography, and painting, artists explore the ways in which contested histories, personal memory, and identity are rooted in both the landscape of the Midwest and other real and imagined places.

Wandering Path (2021) by Margo WolowiecKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

"Wandering Path"

Featuring woven panels of found imagery of waterways, severe
weather events, and topographic maps alongside brain scans, Wandering Path refers to climate catastrophe, infrastructure, and mental health.

Touch (O)ver (2020) by Hellen AscoliKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Touch (O)ver

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Immigrant Experience and Labor

Historically, the Midwest attracted robust immigration by German, Irish, and Scandinavian communities in the mid-19th century, and more recently asylum seekers and refugees from countries such as Vietnam, Iraq, and Somalia.

And the State of Emergency is Also Always a State of Emergence (Installation View) (2017) by Huong NgoKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Huong Ngo

And the State of Emergency is Also Always a State of Emergence captures relics of Ngo’s 18-month stay at a refugee camp in Hong Kong as a child. The piece is anchored by a three-tiered bunk bed structure rendered from
paper covered in graphite to resemble steel.

And the State of Emergency is Also Always a State of Emergence (detail) (2017) by Huong NgoKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Cyanotypes

Cyanotypes lay side-by-side on sand acting as portraits of the water and sunlight used to make them, reenacting traces of the very landscapes traversed to leave one’s home seeking a better life.

Installation view of "The Regional" (2020/2021) by Jonathan Christensen CaballeroKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Jonathan Christensen Caballero

Christensen Caballero works with life-sized figurative sculptures to reflect on both Latinx identity and labor force in the United States. 

"Envíos A Mi Hermano/ Shipments To My Brother" (Detail) (2021) by Jonathan Christensen CaballeroKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Envíos a Mi Hermano/Shipments to My Brother

This sculpture speaks to the practice of sending money to relatives in another country, commonly called remittance. A figure adorned with a blue headdress holds a small toy boat, made from galvanized roof steel sheeting.

"Envíos A Mi Hermano/ Shipments To My Brother" (Detail) (2021) by Jonathan Christensen CaballeroKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Envíos a Mi Hermano/Shipments to My Brother

The other figure, wearing yellow hues, reaches for a toy boat, as additional boats float on a river made from denim pulp, connecting the two figures. 

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Architecture and Notions of Home

Rachel Cox, Anissa Lewis, Rashawn Griffin, and use photography, installation, painting, and drawing to examine historical or present-day neighborhoods and environments that hold personal significance. 

Everything that happens (2016/2021) by Reshawn GriffinKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Everything that happens

Rashawn Griffin's selection of eighty intimate drawings act like a visual diary of his travels throughout the Midwest and elsewhere.

Everything that happens (detail) (2017/2021) by Rashawn GriffinKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Drawing from "Everything that Happens"

"In reality, the weather that day had not been ideal."

Everything that happens (detail) (2017/2021) by Rashawn GriffinKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Drawing from "Everything that Happens"

"The rolling thunder had lied. it was the ocean's disguise. The swell was beautiful and deadly. They lived like this."

Installation view of The Regional (2015) by Anissa LewisKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Anissa Lewis' "The Pleasant Street"

The Pleasant Street (ongoing) series features photographs of the the street where Lewis grew up in Covington, KY, overlaid with family portraits from the artist’s childhood. The images memorialize the neglected block as the vibrant working-class Black community it once was.

Installation view of "The Regional" (2020/2021) by Rachel CoxKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Rachel Cox

Cox locates the suburbs as a site where tribalistic thinking and the false promises of working-class America were cultivated. The works in the series Wake Up (2020–ongoing) are composed of hundreds of small-scale homes the artist fabricated out of construction paper.

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Healing From Ethnic and Racial Traumas

As the Midwest becomes more diverse there has been a rise in ethnic and racially charged violence. Lorena Molina and Jordan Weber each try to flush out alternative narratives and create space for healing as it relates to these traumas.

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

"Reconciliation Garden"

In Reconciliation Garden (2021), Lorena Molina asks viewers to think about their consumption of coffee. In the height of the coffee production in El Salvador, 95% of the country’s income came from coffee crops, yet the land was owned by only one percent of the population.

Reconciliation Garden (2021) by Lorena MolinaKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Salvadorian Civil War (1979-1992)

The Salvadoran Civil War was fought between the military-led junta government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. The U.S. contributed four billion dollars in aid, training of elite military troops, and supplying sophisticated weaponry.

Installation view of "Perennial Philosophies" (2021) by Jordan Weber and 2021Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Perennial Philosophies (2021)

In Perennial Philosophies (2021) two Minneapolis-sourced obsidian boulders placed about six feet from each other include plaques that read “INHALE….” “EXHALE….” As reminders to rest, these plaques highlight the injustice associated with who feels safe in their own environment.

Detail from "Perennial Philosophies" (2021) by Jordan WeberKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Perennial Philosophies (2021)

The words "Inhale" and "Exhale" serve as reminders that the fight for justice is long and arduous, and that everyone deserves the opportunity to rest.

Installation view of "The Regional" by Dan GunnKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Americana and Pop Culture

Dan Gunn and Alice Tippit are inspired by the times in which they live. Thinking through the mythologies of the Midwest as farmland and popular culture seen in films, they relate the familiar to ideologies of this region and question the relationship to the present.

The Ungrateful Son No. 7-8 (2018) by Dan GunnKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Ungrateful Son No. 7-8

Gunn’s work is an investigation of the aesthetic and folklore surrounding the Midwest. Within his freestanding sculptures, Gunn masterfully depicts both the grotesque and the intriguing.

"Fathom", "Dove", "Cull", and "Fault" (2020/2021) by Alice TippitKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Alice Tippit

Tippit reduces imagery to fundamental shapes, using shifts in scale and perception to produce an image that generates more questions than answers. In both Cull (2021) and Dove (2021), the mysterious form seems to be a portrait, but also resembles landscape or a still life.

Installation view of "The Regional"Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Portraiture and Identity

Conrad Egyir and Gisela McDaniel create works that discuss how race, ethnicity, and immigration status play into their experiences living in the middle of America. 

Faculty of Faith (2020) by Conrad EgyirKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Faculty of Faith

Conrad Egyir creates work that uses Afrocentric folklore rooted in political and religious erudition. A large figure wearing doctoral robes makes a clear juxtaposition between the educational robes of Western culture and the African mud cloth on the man’s face mask.

"Always" and "Nëna" (2021) by Gisela McDanielKemper Museum of Contemporary Art

"Always" and "Nëna"

Gisela McDaniel created portraits of maternal figures important to the artist’s growth. These works include recordings of each woman discussing her experiences and sheets of Plexiglas the same size as the canvas. This creates a respectful boundary between viewer and subject.

Credits: Story

Watch videos and learn more about this exhibition.

The Regional is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

This exhibition has been generously supported by the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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