LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has selected “Twelve Drive-Ins I,” a compilation of 12 photographs by artist Jeff Brouws, as the KU Common Work of Art to accompany the 2019-2020 KU Common Book, “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation,” an anthology edited by John Freeman.
Brouws’ photograph depicts 12 images of drive-in movie theaters that seem to have been abandoned. Drive-in theaters represent a distinctly American phenomenon associated with the 1950s and 1960s, when film and television screens celebrated narratives in which hard work yielded success consistent with the ideals of the American dream. “Twelve Drive-Ins I” resonates with one of the many themes found in “Tales of Two Americas”: that the American dream is a myth that may only ever have been an unattainable and fictional projection of Americans’ desires and cultural biases.
“No single work of art can fully encapsulate the many perspectives in the book, but the open-ended interpretive potential of this photograph affords first-year students and all of our visitors opportunities to make a wide variety of connections and associations,” Spencer Museum Curator Kate Meyer said. “We are curious about how Common Book readers understand America today and how connections these readers forge with this work of art may be tied to that understanding.”
Brouws’ “Twelve Drive-Ins I” will be included in the Spencer Museum's upcoming exhibition “Visible and Divisible America: In Conversation with the 2019-2020 KU Common Book,” opening Sept. 7. The exhibition further explores themes from “Tales of Two Americas,” including the costs and value of education, notions of socio-economic and racial inequality, home and homelessness, security and insecurity, change and gentrification, and work and labor.
The Spencer Museum and the Office of First-Year Experience will co-host several Common Book and Common Work of Art events throughout the semester to provide opportunities for further engagement with these themes.
“The KU Common Book and Common Work of Art programs are an integral part of how the university engages new students in the intellectual life of campus,” said Howard Graham, associate director for academic programs in the Office of First-Year Experience. “Together they provide a shared academic experience for students and are vehicles for community-building.”
The Common Work of Art initiative is supported by Jeff and Mary Weinberg, Jedel Family Foundation. Additional support for the exhibition “Visible and Divisible America” comes from KU Student Senate.
Exhibition: "Visible & Divisible America"
On view Sept. 7-Dec. 1 / Spencer Museum of Art
This exhibition uses art from the Spencer Museum's collection to reflect on themes from the KU Common Book, including the costs and value of education, notions of socio-economic and racial inequality, home and homelessness, safety and insecurity, change and gentrification, and work and labor.
Up Close: Visible and Divisible America
2-3 p.m. / Spencer Museum of Art
Spencer Curator Kate Meyer shares how themes of social, racial and economic inequity in this year’s Common Book, “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation,” resonate with works in the Spencer Museum’s collection.
Votes & Views: Exploring Decisions
3-5 p.m. / Spencer Museum of Art & KU Natural History Museum
Students are invited to get to know KU’s museums at this event offered in conjunction with the 2019-2020 KU Common Book.
Senior Session: Common Work of Art
10:15-11:15 a.m. / Spencer Museum of Art
Spencer Curator Kate Meyer discusses this year’s Common Work of Art and related works that complement themes in this year’s Common Book.
Image: Jeff Brouws, “Twelve Drive-Ins I,” 2005, museum purchase: Helen Foresman Spencer Art Acquisition Fund, 2005.0064