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Residue of Memory

May 11, 2012-Jul 15, 2012

Memory is a paradoxical thing, central to the formation of the self, yet fugitive and difficult to pin down. Memories become attenuated with the passage of time, yet can come rushing back in an instant under certain conditions. From the simple act of marking time to the recording of complex events, The Residue of Memory examined the diverse ways that events can leave their mark, and how objects and experiences can function as physical traces or intangible points of contact to the past.

For his work free fotolab (2009), for example, British artist Phil Collins posted ads in several European cities, offering individuals free processing and prints from their undeveloped rolls of film in exchange for all rights to the images. The resulting nine-minute slideshow—a selection of vacation photos, family gatherings, and other private moments—presents a strangely affecting montage of anonymous appropriated memories. By contrast, American artist and activist Andrea Bowers explores both the history of activist causes—including environmentalism, immigration advocacy, women’s rights, and civil rights—and their contemporary manifestations. She meticulously redraws images from historical photographs, often editing out the original background and isolating figures from a crowd. By isolating these subjects, Bowers moves away from the particulars of the original events and imbues them with a more universal meaning. Whether personal or public, illustrative or evocative, ephemeral or concrete, the works that made up The Residue of Memory collectively engage with and complicate such apparent dichotomies as distance and proximity, loss and remembrance, the individual and the universal.

Artists in the exhibition included Kristoffer Akselbo, John Baldessari, Andrea Bowers, Phil Collins, Bruce Conner, Roberto Cuoghi, Simon Evans, Lara Favaretto, Paul Graham, Karl Haendel, Susan Hiller, Pierre Huyghe, Friedrich Kunath, Glenn Ligon, Teresa Margolles, Richard Misrach, Richard Prince, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Doris Salcedo, Kaari Upson, and Anna Von Mertens.

The Residue of Memory was organized by the AAM and funded in part by the AAM National Council with major underwriting from Susan and Larry Marx. Additional exhibition support was provided by Gabriela and Ramiro Garza, Nancy and Richard Rogers, and the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation for Latin American Art. Exhibition lectures are presented as part of the Questrom Lecture Series and educational outreach programming is made possible by the Questrom Education Fund.