A Study in Midwestern Appropriation

Curated by painter, critic, and curator Michelle Grabner, the group exhibition A Study in Midwestern Appropriation surveys the defining trait of appropriation in contemporary art from the heartland. Artists included in the show from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis present a range of image and content-borrowing strategies, from the critical to the open-ended, the humorous imitation to the urgent copy.

As defined by Tony Godfrey in Conceptual Art, appropriation in art is “the act of one artist assuming the work of another artist and claiming it as their own. This act defies assumptions about the authenticity of artistic creation and traditional notions of copyright.” Contemporary appropriation strategies are fluid in gesture and embrace a very different ‘creative’ content than the critical acts of appropriation that Marcel Duchamp pioneered nearly one hundred years ago. Grabner’s exhibition posits that, unlike work by artists from other regions, artwork by midwestern artists deploy appropriation to convey self-deprecating and comical qualities. Grabner states, “How these [Midwest] artists decide how they are used and by whom is an open question, but there would appear to be little or no proprietary interest in the images themselves. Like the work of art ‘designed for reproducibility,’ such as a multiple, these images are not created to be used so much as appropriated. Since they have multiple contexts to begin with, they are always already recontextualized, making their production a form of viral consumption.”

A Study in Midwestern Appropriation features sculptures, drawings, text-based work, photographs, prints, and collages by artists from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

  • September 29, 2013 – January 12, 2014
  • Kanter McCormick Gallery

A Study in Midwestern Appropriation  is made possible through the lead support of Brian Herbstritt. 

Generous support is also provided by: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jeffrey Hammes and Linda Warren, Janis Kanter and Tom McCormick, Claudia Luebbers, and Richard Wright and Valerie Carberry.

A Study in Midwestern Appropriation

Featured Artists

Conrad Bakker, Peter Barrickman, Chris Bradley, Stephanie Brooks, Zachary Cahill, Sean Joseph Patrick Carney, Paul Cowan, Paul Druecke, Jeanne Dunning, Karl Erickson, Assaf Evron, Ron Ewert, Andrew Falkowski, Nicholas Frank, Beverly Fre$h, Isa Gagarin, Evan Gruzis, Brooke Kanther, Christian Kuras and Duncan MacKenzie, Kevin Maginnis, Tony Matelli, Matt McAuliffe, Matthew Metzger, Matt Nichols, Scott Reeder, Tyson Reeder, Karen Reimer, John Riepenhoff, David Robbins, Scott Short, Ben Stone, Andrew Swant, Tony Tasset, Aaron van Dyke, Pedro Velez with Shelleen Greene and Sara Daleiden, Oli Watt, and Scott Wolniak.


About Michelle Grabner

Michelle Grabner is co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial and has organized many exhibitions since 1998, most recently for Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York), White Flag Projects (St. Louis), and locally at Sullivan Gallery at SAIC and Peregrine Projects. She is co-founder and director of the independent exhibition space, The Suburban and Poor Farm, an artist residency and publishing program in rural Wisconsin. Grabner has held many visiting artist appointments around the US and abroad and has been exhibiting her own paintings and textile work for over twenty-five years. She received a MFA from Northwestern University, and a MA and BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Since 1996, she has been a professor in the Department of Painting and Drawing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.



The exhibition was accompanied by a publication featuring an essay by Michelle Grabner examining the history and sociology of appropriation in Chicago compared to the ironic and satirical underpinnings familiar to appropriative gestures of New York practices. Contact exhibitions@hydeparkart.org for more information.

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