Princeton University Art Museum Begins Summer Feature Exhibitions Including a Groundbreaking Look at 70’s Photography and a View into Princeton’s "Inner Sanctum" in Historic Nassau Hall

Latest Innovation Caps Director James Steward’s First Year

PRINCETON, N.J.—The Princeton University Art Museum will launch its inaugural summer season of temporary exhibitions, which will include Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970–1980, the first ever survey of 18 of the top practitioners of what was dubbed “The New Color Photography” by critics, as well as Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall, a site-specific exhibition exploring the role of portraiture and place in the formation of Princeton’s institutional identity. The year-round exhibition schedule is just one item in the long list of innovative happenings started by Museum Director James Steward, who is soon to celebrate his first anniversary at Princeton. “I want our temporary exhibition galleries to be vibrant no matter what time of year a visitor comes to us,” said Steward, adding that the Museum’s location, a short one-hour drive or train ride from both Philadelphia and New York City, makes it an ideal destination for summer excursions for a broad segment of the region’s population as well as visitors to the area. 

During his first year as Princeton’s ninth director, Steward introduced “Late Thursdays,” extending Museum hours to 10 p.m. each week and drawing an enthusiastic audience of 2,400 on the premier evening. Among his other innovations, Steward is actively working to bring prominent art world figures to the Museum as artists-in-residence or guest curators, including new curatorial partnerships already in the works with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Menil Collection in Houston. Advocating a dynamic, interdisciplinary approach, Steward brings a heightened visibility to the Museum’s world-class collections, with frequent rotation of objects and more exposure given to photography, with two galleries that will be regularly devoted to that medium.


The summer catalog includes four exhibitions and opens with the Museum-produced feature, Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall. The exhibition takes the visitor inside Princeton’s symbolic center and tells the evocative story of how Princeton went from a small religious school to a world-renowned research university, an evolution reflected in the remarkable collection of portraits the Faculty Room contains, as well as by the various uses to which the room has been put over three centuries.


The summer culminates with the groundbreaking exhibition Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980. Until the 1970s, color photography was held in low esteem among artists, who regarded it as only appropriate for advertising, journalism, fashion and snapshots. Once color films became more affordable and fade-resistant, young photographers began exploring the potential of color photography as an artistic medium.


Starburst showcases the work of a generation of American artists inspired by color to blur the borders between photography, video, performance art and conceptualism. Their diverse efforts in the streets and studio dramatically expanded the possibilities of the still photographic image, propelling the medium toward a new centrality in the art world.


Exhibition highlightsinclude a selection of 20 photographs from William Eggleston’s controversial one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 1976; Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces, a project unseen in its original format since the work’s debut at Light Gallery in 1972; and Helen Levitt’s slide show, first projected at MoMA in 1974.


Princeton University Art Museum Summer Exhibition Schedule:


Pictures of Pictures               

May 28—October 10, 2010

Pictures of Pictures explores the witty and ingenious ways in which artists of all media and traditions have nested one image inside another. Drawn largely from the Museum's collections, the exhibition includes works of photography, collage, painting, prints and drawings, and even sculpture. This diverse survey runs the gamut from a seventeenth-century Alsatian still-life featuring a miniature portrait to a monumental image of Caravaggio’s Narcissus, lovingly recreated in scrap metal. Playful yet thought-provoking, the exhibition casts fresh light on the postmodern era by pairing recent “appropriation art” with its precedents from the past. Featured artists include Vik Muniz, Roy Lichtenstein, Lee Friedlander, and Andy Warhol.


Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room

at Nassau Hall                       

May 28—October 30, 2010

Inner Sanctum takes viewers inside the Faculty Room of Princeton University’s historic Nassau Hall to explore the Faculty Room’s role as the symbolic center of Princeton and venerable repository of its institutional memory, and looks at how the room and its portrait collection both reflect and helped shape the University’s identity. Located at the heart of the Princeton campus, the Faculty Room served as a prayer hall, library and museum—as well as the seat of the U.S. congress for a few critical months in 1783—until University President Woodrow Wilson had it remodeled in 1906 for executive and ceremonial use, installing a remarkable collection of portraits depicting University founders, American presidents, British monarchs, clergymen, scholars, scientists and others. The exhibition traces the Faculty Room’s changing function and symbolic role, while the diverse portraits on its walls tell the story of Princeton’s evolution from a small school of dissident theologians to the world-renowned research university it is today.


Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu            

June 26—September 11, 2010

Centered upon the Remembrance bell erected on Princeton’s campus in memory of the 13 alumni who tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001, this exhibition features new gifts from artist Toshiko Takaezu as well as older favorites from the Museum’s and University’s collections, highlighting one of the great ceramic artists of the twentieth century.


A contemporary artist, Takaezu’s ceramics have many unique attributes. She is perhaps best known for closing the vessel form to render it useless as a functional object, transforming into solely an aesthetic object. In this seemingly simple act, Takaezu’s pieces gain presence and resonance that lingers into memory.


Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980                     

July 10—September 26, 2010

Starburst offers the first historical survey of what critics of the 1970s called “the new color photography,” an informal and energetic artistic movement that launched color toward its position of preeminence in contemporary art. The exhibition features generous bodies of work by eighteen artists, from the still-prominent, such as Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Jan Groover, and Joel Sternfeld, to key figures of the period, including Eve Sonneman, Neal Slavin, John Pfahl, and Barbara Kasten. Organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum.