ART AS (RE)ACTION

Grades 9 – 12

In the 2015 – 2016 school year, the Chinati Foundation and Marfa ISD embarked on a partnership in which MISD high school art students considered how the museum’s art fits into the context of Modernism and beyond. Chinati educators visited MISD campus art classes throughout the academic year and, along with high school art teacher Mary Mois, these instructors presented an abridged version of Robert Hughes’ award-winning BBC series Shock of the New. The videos served as a jumping off point for discussion and thought about art’s role as a catalyst for change.


 

Students learned about early reactionary Modernist movements such as DaDa, Futurism, Cubism, and the Suprematists. Chinati educators used current events and pop culture references to help students understand the layered, nuanced relevance and meaning of these movements. Questions arose: what events today mirror the state of Europe in the early 20th century? How do present-day musicians, writers and visual artists respond to current events? Do these contemporary responses share any concepts with previous art movements? Why and how?

To personalize and contextualize their individual and cultural place in current events, Marfa students created their own visual manifestos using stencils, spray paint and poster board. These posters were later hung in the high school hallways. The group also traveled to El Paso’s Museum of Art to experience the El Paso- Juarez Biennial, an exciting, youthful and politically charged exhibition. The Biennial’s work is likewise culturally relevant to our Mexican-American high school students, many of who are economically disadvantaged and/or first generation immigrants. The daytrip concluded with a visit to the art department at the University of Texas El Paso, where Marfa students toured the department’s facilities and met with art faculty and students. Workbooks specific to this project guided students to take notes and write reflections about what they’d seen. For some of our students, this was their first-ever encounter with college professors or a college campus.

As a final component of the yearlong class, Marfa students brought their deepening understanding of art and Modernism to their hometown museum’s world-class collection. After viewing work by John Chamberlain, students talked and wrote about how Chinati’s work is situated in the context of Modernism and considered the works’ relevance to the contemporary world. What, if anything, prompted these very different artists to make these particular works? Does their meaning or message continue to resonate? And why might that be important? By guiding high school students through this long process of realization and questioning, we hope that they’ll gain a better understanding of the complexities of expression, and of the power of their own voices.


 
 

Chinati’s educational and public programming is supported with generous grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Brown Foundation, the Cowles Charitable Trust, the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, the Permian Basin Area Foundation, the Warren Skaaren Trust, the Susan Vaughan Foundation, and the City of Marfa.