In a time when mass migration is increasing, and the right to immigrate is dramatically contested, the individual experiences of immigrants are often absent from the discussion. “Artists, Born Elsewhere – Selections from the UMCA’s Permanent Collection” at The UniversityMuseumofContemporaryArt,UMassAmherstillustrates both individual narratives through imagery, and culturally specific expressions of the effects of displacement and relocation which resonate as being universally shared.
Drawing from a collection of varied media pieces by artists whose work incubated within such diverse cultural backgrounds as Syria, Diana al-Hadid; Germany, Josef Albers; Viet Nam, An-My Lê; Hungary, André Kertész and Iran, Y.Z. Kami, the exhibition includes portraits, still-lifes, landscapes and abstract, sometimes fantastical prints and drawings. Many of the prints were acquired from Exit Art Gallery in Manhattan before the gallery’s closure in 2012.
The exhibition steers away from articulated political commentary, except for a small untitled print piece from the Nixon era by German-born Hans Haacke, with the printed question “If elections were held today, for which candidate would you vote?” Throughout, migration from a political standpoint is personalized and made visible by its toll on, and triumph of, the human spirit.
Loretta Yarlow, former Director of the University Museum of Contemporary Art and curator of “Artists, Born Elsewhere,” shared her thoughts on the relevance and universality of the represented works. “Many artists I selected for this exhibition have each had a profound influence on a younger generation of American artists or on their fellow artists,” Yarlow said.