September 21, 2015

Geof Oppenheimer:Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures

Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University

Geof Oppenheimer, Civil/Evil (detail), 2015. Steel, lead, CMU blocks, magnets, plexiglass, and pigment prints.

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University presents Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures, the first solo museum exhibition by artist Geof Oppenheimer (b. 1973). The exhibition opens with a celebration on Saturday, September 26 at 2pm with remarks from the artist, and will run through November 30.

Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures features two new works commissioned by the Block: a large sculpture occupying the museum’s main gallery, and a video installation filling its first floor gallery. With these new works, Oppenheimer deepens his ongoing investigations into the rational, regulating forces of human society, from political and economic systems to the proliferation of visual and textual rhetoric. The sculpture Civil/Evil (2015) probes structures of power and how they are communicated through material and image, pressure and release, upon the individual. The video, DRAMA (2015), invokes how our relations to one another are shaped and predetermined by systems of exchange and labor.

Included in museum group exhibitions and biennials nationally and internationally, this is Oppenheimer’s first solo exhibition in the city where he lives and works.

The Block recently expanded its contemporary art program, making a commitment to artists working globally. With this new initiative, the museum will undertake exhibitions and commissions of new works and will produce publications that consider an artist’s work within the context of his or her peers. The next project in this series will open in January 2017 and will feature a newly commissioned work by Berlin-based artist Kader Attia. Beginning in fall 2015, Attia will be an artist-in-residence at Northwestern’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

Geof Oppenheimer, the inaugural artist in this initiative, will also be the subject of a publication, the first focused exclusively on his work. The publication, to be released in spring 2016, will include essays by Dieter Roelstraete, member of the curatorial team for Documenta 14, who will survey Oppenheimer’s practice to date, and Anthony Elms, chief curator at the ICA Philadelphia, who will focus on the projects commissioned by the Block. Both authors, whose endeavors straddle curating and art criticism, have worked previously with the artist.

Throughout fall, the Block Museum will present gallery talks by scholars, critics, and artists. For details, visit the Block Museum of Art events calendar. All programs are at the Block and free except when noted otherwise. These include:

Opening day program: A conversation with artist Geof Oppenheimer
Saturday, September 26, 2–5pm

Conversation: Artist Geof Oppenheimer and guest film curator Will Schmenner
Thursday, October 15, 7–10pm

Conversation: Richard Sennett and artist Geof Oppenheimer
Saturday, October 24, noon–1pm
Presented in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival (click here to purchase tickets)

Gallery talk: Art historian David Getsy
Wednesday, October 28, 6:30–8pm

Lecture: Cultural critic Brian Holmes, “The Cyborg in the Sphere”
Wednesday, November 4, 6:30–8pm

Poetry reading: “A Poem is a Sculpture”
Wednesday, November 18, 6–8pm

About The Mary And Leigh Block Museum of Art
Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2015, The Block Museum is Northwestern University’s art museum. The Block is a dynamic, imaginative and innovative teaching and learning resource for Northwestern and its surrounding communities, featuring a global exhibition program that crosses time periods and cultures and serves as a springboard for thought-provoking discussions relevant to our lives today.

The museum also commissions new work by artists to foster connections with the public through the creative process. Each year, the Block mounts exhibitions; organizes and hosts lectures, symposia and workshops involving artists, scholars, curators and critics; and screens classic and contemporary films at its in-house cinema. The museum also reaches national and international audiences through its traveling exhibitions, publications and website. Its growing permanent collection of approximately 5,000 works focuses primarily on prints, photography and drawings.

Located on Northwestern’s Evanston campus, the Block is housed in a building designed by Dirk Lohan, the grandson of the pioneering modernist architect Mies van der Rohe. The Block Museum is at the heart of Northwestern’s new Arts Circle, scheduled to open in fall 2015. The Arts Circle will, for the first time, unite all visual and performing arts in one neighborhood, inspiring collaborations across art forms and underscoring the University’s commitment to providing a unique site where campus and community can connect to celebrate creativity across artistic disciplines. The Block is free and open to all. 

For more information, visit, or contact Susy Bielak, associate director of engagement/curator of public practice, at [email protected].

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