Image Universe: Back to School

We’re closing out summer with a school-themed Image Universe feature.

Editor's Note

It’s that time of year when students across the country are getting back into the swing of things at school.

Educational settings have often been captured by artists. Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, gives a peek into a time when human anatomy lessons took the form of annual public dissections in theaters filled with scholars, students, and the general public. You'll still see the image today in just about any Art History 101 course. With Educational Complex, 1995, Mike Kelly combined his personal memories of grade-school architecture with actual floorplans to create a rendering of a hybrid, fictionalized building that has been interpreted as the hallways of the artist’s mind.

Others have interrogated the ways that schools reinforce social hierarchies and political systems—including how arts schools teach who can be an artist and what art should look like. Alex Bag, T.J. Dedeaux Norris, and Jayson Musson—performing as Hennessy Youngman—all created video confessionals and tutorials to question the systems of approval that have created an exclusionary, and oftentimes discriminatory, art world. Bruce High Quality Foundation even created their own alternative school, BHQFU, which offered free, experimental classes outside of the university establishment.

Our new Image Universe highlights artists who use school supplies—like pencils and blackboard chalk—as materials or whose work questions the very nature of pedagogy and learning, as well as some fun pop culture staples. Get studying!

Bruce High Quality Foundation’s 2011 Teach 4 Amerika tour visits Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia. Image via Jeffrey Bussmann on Flickr.

Marco Maggi, Drawing Machine, 12 possible starting points, 2015. 12 vintage Soviet colored pencils between 12 bow strings mounted on wall. Courtesy the artist and Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo. Image via Artsy.

Jeff Koons, Art Magazine Ad, 1988. Color lithograph. Courtesy the artist and Carolina Nitsch, Contemporary Art. Image via Artsy.

Gary Simmons, Black Chalkboard (Four Mouths), 1993. Chalk and fixative on Masonite. Collection of the Portland Art Museum.

Mike Kelley, Educational Complex, 1995. Synthetic polymer, latex, foam core, fiberglass, and wood. Image via Art Agenda.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Stephen R. Milanowski, Cheerleaders Drill, 1983. Chromogenic color print. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Britney Spears’ “...Baby One More Time” music video, directed by Nigel Dick.

Art Club 2000, Untitled (Conrans I), 1992–93. C-print. Courtesy the artists. Image via The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1968. Oil-based house paint and crayon on canvas. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Schoolhouse Rock: Multiplication “Three Is a Magic Number” Music Video, Song by Bob Dorough.

Guerrilla Girls, Guerrilla Girls’ 1986 Report Card, 1986. Poster. Image via the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

A still from Alex Bag’s Untitled (Fall 95), 1995. Single-channel video. Courtesy the artist and team (gallery inc.), New York. Video available on UbuWeb.

Jayson Musson a.k.a. Hennessy Youngman, ART THOUGHTZ: How to Make an Art, 2011. Single-channel video. Courtesy the artist.

T.J. Dedeaux Norris, My First Semester - Yale School of Art, 2010. Single-channel video. Courtesy the artist.

Tina Barney, The Two Students, 2001. Chromogenic color print. Courtesy the artist and Kasmin, New York. Image via Artsy.

L. Kasimu Harris, War on the Benighted #1, 2015. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.


Photo Essay