Air Pressure

Wednesday February 14, 2024 - Saturday May 25, 2024

Pruzan Art Center
New location between Wesleyan’s Olin Memorial Library and Frank Center for Public Affairs
238 Church Street, Middletown, Connecticut
Air Pressure

Image: Thomas Willoughby Nason, "Summer Storm," 1940. Chiaroscuro wood engraving. Gift of William C. Murphy (BA Wesleyan 1906) in honor of George W. Davison (BA Wesleyan 1892), 1942.17.1. (Photo: M. Cook). © Janet W. Eltinge Trust.

Air Pressure is an exhibition that explores the representation of air in print. Working with the airless processes of printmaking, which require direct contact between a printing matrix and paper, artists have continually discovered new ways of achieving a variety of atmospheric effects in their work, from glowing clouds to changing weather systems. The exhibition features artworks spanning six centuries from the Davison Art Collection, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), Yvonne Jacquette (1934–2023), Stow Wengenroth (1906–1978), and James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903).

In the works on view in Air Pressure, unmarked expanses of paper, organized systems of lines, and translucent veils of ink left on printing plates take their turns infusing printed compositions with air. The prints also express artists’ fascination with air’s diverse qualities and changeable nature. Two prints by Félix-Hilaire Buhot (1847–1898) evoke the bracing contact between skin and air in compositions depicting a frigid winter morning and pedestrians buffeted by gales of wind. Wengenroth crafts atmospheres that are balmy yet refreshing in another pair of works portraying mild summer days. A selection of aerial views from five different centuries demonstrates artists’ longstanding interest in situating spectators in the air, and another selection of works examines darker manifestations of air as mediums for pollution, explosions, and stenches.

Read New Pruzan Art Center to Showcase Two Exhibitions from Davison Art Collection in The Wesleyan Connection.

Opening Reception: Wednesday, February 14, 2024 at 4:30pm.

The Air Pressure exhibition will be closed from Saturday, March 9 through Sunday, March 24, 2024; and from Saturday, May 18 through Thursday, May 23, 2024.

The exhibition will be open for Reunion and Commencement Weekend on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25, 2024 from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. 

A free talk by Claire Grace, Associate Professor and Program Director for Art History, and Associate Professor of American Studies, "Air and Danger circa 1970: Judy Chicago's Southern California Atmospheres," will be held on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at 4:30pm in Olin Memorial Library, Room 014. 

In 1969, Judy Chicago (then Gerowitz) began a series of aeriform works she called "Atmospheres." These ephemeral interventions propelled billowing clouds of colored smoke into the air at locations around Los Angeles, where the artist was based. Chicago produced about a dozen such works through the early 1970s, while developing the feminist aesthetics for which she became best known. In recent years, Chicago has returned to pyrotechnical media, garnering considerable press for ambitiously orchestrated events of radically expanded scale and grandeur. The origins of the series, however, are not well understood. What were the stakes of these works in the late 1960s, when “smog alerts” made Southern California headlines on a nearly daily basis, and when forms of air delivered violence galvanized the antiwar movement? In the spring of 1970, these questions came to a head on a college campus where Chicago presented three "Atmospheres" coinciding with student antiwar protests and the first Earth Day celebration.