Smart to the Core: Medium / Image

September 23–December 12, 2021

Thick smears of paint partially cover a photograph of a seascape

Gerhard Richter, 7. Dez. 2014, 2014, Oil on color photograph. © Gerhard Richter 2021 (0144)

How do different types of media over time impact the way our world is represented and perceived? What is the relation between images, human sensations, and reality? How are media instruments of power and how are they used in creating senses of self?

Bringing together paintings, photographs, prints, and new media, this conceptually-driven exhibition traces the philosophical and aesthetic debates that examine Western culture’s relationship with visual media. The artworks on view delve into questions of mimesis and indexicality, systems of value and reception, the dynamics of mediation, and the gendered and racialized gaze. In doing so, Smart to the Core: Medium / Image seeks to interrogate the structures that underpin perception and explore the social impact of visual culture.

Smart to the Core: Medium / Image is the second in a series of exhibitions designed by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry to expand object-centered teaching across all fields and disciplines in the University of Chicago’s celebrated College Core, which introduces students to foundational texts that raise fundamental questions about human experience. This project was particularly inspired by, and curated for, the Humanities Division course “Media Aesthetics,” which focuses on “Image” in the fall (followed by “Text” and “Sound” in winter and spring). Throughout the 2021 fall quarter students will interpret the artworks on view in tandem with the theories and texts associated with their course. Overall, this exhibition program showcases the ways in which the Smart Museum engages with and shares the intellectual life of the University with the broader public. 


Ottomar Anschütz, Endia Beal, Dawoud Bey, Dara Birnbaum, Samuel Bourne, Bill Brandt, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Gordon Coster, André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Marcel Duchamp, Louis Faurer, Lee Friedlander, Lee Godie, Kenneth Knowlton and Leon Harmon, Childe Hassam, Hannah Höch, Bertha Evelyn Jacques, Kenneth Josephson, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Laura Letinsky, Sherrie Levine, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Elio Luxardo, Felix H. Man, Kerry James Marshall, Tina Modotti, Abelardo Morell, Eadweard Muybridge, Timothy O'Sullivan, Toshio Okanoue, Gerhard Richter, Daniel Rozin, Jason Salavon, Sonia Landy Sheridan, Lorna Simpson, Edward Steichen, Eve Sussman, William Henry Fox Talbot, Sophie Thun, Abraham van Beyeren, James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, John Adams Whipple, and Max Yavno.

Virtual tour

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Download the interpretation packet (PDF) for a full checklist and copy of exhibition texts.