Meditations from the Middle / Hyperallergic


Linda Lighton and Mark Southerland, “Sisters” (2013), brass and porcelain, 25 x 18 x 14 inches (image by EG Schempf)

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — There is nothing in the center, because it’s the middle and the middle doesn’t matter. At least, that’s what interest in smaller non-coastal American cities historically tends to be. Detroit pops up on the art world’s radar when it comes to ruin pornand rebuilding. St. Louis offers cultural gems like the Pulitzer Foundation and the World Chess Hall of Fame. Elsewhere in Michigan, the city of Grand Rapids is visible in part because of the absurd art party that is ArtPrize. Chicago is always the best and windiest second city with the weirdest dude energy and Michelle Grabner, and Milwaukee is its first cousin where portraits of the Roman Catholic Pope made out of condoms causes something of an uproar. And then, smack dab in the middle of it all is Kansas City, Missouri. Is this city the middle, center, heart of it all, flyover country, or an experiment in regionalism? In the exhibition The Center is a Moving Target at the Kemper Museum of Art’s Kemper at the Crossroads (located in the Crossroads District), curator Erin Dziedzic considers that question through works by 11 artists who either currently live in or used to call Kansas City their home. With such a loose curatorial theme organized under the term “regionalism,” almost anything goes.

As a non-native of Kansas City, I identified three different conversations going on here. In the first room that houses Diana Heise’s video about the isle of Mauritius, an island located off the southeast coast of India with a history of British and French colonialism that is now advertised as the perfect tourist destination, and Ahram Park’s pigment prints of Kansas landscapes, the conversation is focused on landscape and place. In the largest room down the hall, the talk is focused on domestic space particularly as it relates to artists in this region; but what makes domesticity in Kansas City different from other parts of the country is not explained. And in the middle room, the one that all must walk through in order to get around, the talk extends outside of Kansas City and into cycles of death and resurrection, and who is allowed to have these types of conversations in the first place.

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