Object Lessons in American Art features four centuries of works from the Princeton University Art Museum that collectively explore American history, culture, and society. Inspired by the historical concept of the object lesson—the study of a material thing to communicate an embodied idea—the exhibition brings groups of objects together to ask fundamental questions about artistic significance, materials, and how meaning changes across time and contexts. With a focus on race, gender, and the environment, these pairings demonstrate the value of juxtaposing often diverse objects to generate new understanding. Object Lessons presents Euro-American, Native American, and African American art from contemporary perspectives, illustrating how fresh investigations can inform and enrich its meaning, affording new insights into the American past and present.
An accompanying catalogue expands upon the exhibition through focused analyses that situate these important works within current social, cultural, and artistic concerns and debates.