The Ulrich Museum exuberantly reopened last weekend with a refreshed space that may appear the same, but is actually full of major upgrades that really make the space feel polished. But the delight of the Ulrich reopening begins well before entering the gallery space.
The Ulrich’s huge yarn bomb effort can been seen campus-wide and is a tremendous success. Even though I was skeptical about the concept of sanctioned graffiti, this project convinced me that yarn bombing, authorized or not, will always be delightful.
Entering into the museum, visitors are greeted with new selection of artwork from the permanent collection that have been assembled for an introspective show that asks: Who Are We? Artists Explore Identity. This exhibition approaches themes of race, gender, and sexuality, and aims to encourage critical thinking and compassionate dialog – one of contemporary art’s finest functions.
The show continues on the second floor where a smart pairing of Hank Willis Thomas’ I am a Man and Ernest C. Withers’ 1968 iconic photograph of the Memphis sanitation workers strike makes a smooth transition from the permanent collection to The Hard Kind of Courage: Gordon Parks and the Photographers of the Civil Rights Era.
The Hard Kind of Courage displays photographs of prominent civil rights leaders and portraits of American citizens. Hung salon-style in the Amsden gallery, this smaller, intimate space ignites the human connections that civil rights era photojournalists aimed to capture.
In the large Polk/Wilson Gallery, the retrospective Ronald Christ: Poetic Fictions balances the socially heavy nature of the other shows with a formalist exploration of painting. Arranged chronologically, viewers can watch Christ’s artistic interest transform from still life pieces that are, perhaps, more about color theory than the objects depicted, to Italianate landscapes with architecture and figures that are as arresting as they are enigmatic.