Cathy Busby, April 16 - May 26, 2012
The Refectory, Union Theological Seminary
Broadway at 121st Street
New York City

Cathy Busby

This temporary exhibition in the Refectory is made up of a series of wall paintings together with a book about the portraits in Union’s holdings. The wall paintings are silhouettes of the portraits that usually hang here.

In the past the portraits at Union have been taken down many times to paint the walls, occasionally as protest and more recently for film shoots. This time, the artist has removed them in order to re-envision this space.

The 175th anniversary is an occasion for re-envisioning. And in terms of portraits, we know what the past 175 years have looked like. This exhibition is a chance for a pause as we consider what the next 175 years could look like.

As contemporary art, neither the strategy of removing art nor painting on walls is new. These wall paintings emerge from a Conceptual / Minimal art tradition of the 1960s and 70s. Cathy Busby uses these strategies to engage with a place, something she does consistently in her practice. Her work begins with and probes things as they are, in this instance Union and its portraits and history.

Cathy Busby says: "I intend this work to invite conversation about the space of the Refectory and Union’s rich history as represented in portraits. However, the formal (and formulaic) conventions and hanging of the portraits don’t reveal this history. By looking beyond this convention we find a remarkable line-up of those who imagined, created, and sustained Union. And depending on how you look at it, there’s a randomness, or privilege, to whose images are represented in these portraits with many key figures in the institution’s history absent."

The exhibition includes a 96-page book, published by the Institute of Art, Religion and Social Justice, Union Theological Seminary and Printed Matter, Inc. The book, also titled About Face, includes color photographs of all 63 of Union’s portraits (1840 – 2009), an annotated catalogue, and reflections about the portraits from Union students, faculty, staff, and friends. The book is a gift to visitors from Union during this 175th anniversary celebration. Please ask for a copy at the Library front desk. They may also be purchased at Printed Matter, Inc.

Cathy Busby often assembles or works with existing collections. Her installations and printed matter are frequently concerned with making critical interventions in collaboration with educational and art institutions. She is the artist-in-residence with The Institute for Art, Religion and Social Justice through May, 2012. Her father, E. David Busby graduated from Union in 1957.