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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 13, 2006

UI Museum of Art Explores Art, Consumerism In Re-opened Sculpture Court

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) will re-open its Sculpture Court -- the central area near the front of the building -- with several new works that explore the relationship between art objects and their context, plus a lecture and a reception, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27.

Admission is free to the UIMA and to events celebrating the re-opening of the Sculpture Court.

New works on display in the Sculpture Court will be:

-- "United Paper," an installation that will be created in the Sculpture Court in the days leading up to the opening by Taiwanese artist E Chen;

-- John D. Freyer's "Big Boy," a fiberglass sculpture that originally stood on the roof of a Big Boy restaurant in Ann Arbor, Mich., and that was purchased by Freyer on eBay;

-- Freyer's "," which was originally created in 2001 as Freyer's master of fine arts project at the UI School of Art and Art History; and

-- "Working in the Gap," a painted-canvas replication of a Gap shopping bag by American artist Jonathan Seliger.

As part of the re-opening, art historian Martha Buskirk will present the 2006 Bette Spriestersbach Lecture, "Rebranding the Readymade," at 7:30 p.m. Art After Hours, the UIMA young contemporaries group, will host a reception after the talk, honoring Buskirk, Freyer and Chen.

The common theme connecting these diverse artworks is the exploration of consumer culture.

"United Paper" will be built from a variety of consumer goods that may range from Styrofoam coffee cups to refrigerators. Chen will re-package the products, turn the boxes inside out, refit the merchandise and cut peep holes and windows into the boxes to build a large interactive installation. "United Paper" will stand in the UIMA Sculpture Court through 2007.

The "Big Boy" sculpture has been sold several times, passing from the market for working signs to the market for collectible objects, through eBay to Freyer and hence to the UIMA. As "Big Boy" traveled from one market to another, it took on new meanings, as defined by the marketplace, and by the buyers and the sellers it attracted.

Now a virtual project, "" is the domain name of the Internet project that Freyer created in 2001, when he sold all of his possessions through the Internet auction site eBay. The museum was the high bidder for the rights to the domain name of the project.

Shaped from a painted and stitched flat surface, Seliger's Gap shopping bag is a constructed illusion. The reproduction of advertising packaging and its display; the placement of a banal commercial object in the gallery environment; and the hand-crafted and luxurious simulation of ordinary inexpensive cultural artifacts; these are methods used by Seliger to both celebrate and criticize the culture of materialism.

Buskirk is a professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass. She is the author of "Learning from Big Boy," just published by the UIMA in connection with her lecture, and "The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art." She is currently working on a new book that examines how contemporary artists both respond to and redirect conventions associated with the art museum and aspects of the discipline of art history.

Currently a visiting faculty member at the UI School of Art and Art History, Freyer is an interdisciplinary artist whose works spans photography, video, audio, the Internet, design and installation. His "" -- which can still be seen at -- was created as a master's thesis at the UI and published as a book in 2002. Objects from that project belong to a variety of collections, including the UIMA and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as numerous private owners.

Recently the subject of a one-person show at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, N.Y., Freyer has appeared on the "Today Show" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," as well as numerous radio programs. His new collaborative television program "Secondhand Stories" is currently under negotiation with television networks.

E Chen was born in Taiwan in 1966. In 1991, he moved to California to continue his education in art and architecture. He received an Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1993, and in 1996 he received a master's degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. At UCLA, Chen studied with Charles Ray, an alumnus of the UI School of Art and Art History.

Since 1988 he has had three solo exhibitions at Richard Telles Fine Art in Los Angeles, Calif., and his work was recently included in a group show organized by the Neue Galerie (New Gallery) in Graz, Austria. Chen's work has been exhibited at Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, and his installation "A String of Time" was recently shown at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The annual Spriestersbach Lecture at the UIMA honors the late Bette R. Spriestersbach, a museum docent and a former program associate in the Child Health Specialty Clinics in the UI Hospital School who died in 2004. She was the wife of former UI vice president Duane C. Spriestersbach, who endowed the lecture in 1992 through a gift to the University of Iowa Foundation.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit on the World Wide Web.

The School of Art and Art History is part of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Art and Art History web site at Information on other UI arts events is available at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

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