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Developing The Appearance of Clarity: Works in Black and White

The Appearance of Clarity

Amy Rahn's exhibition The Appearance of Clarity: Works in Black and White at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, Vermont

For Stony Brook PhD student Amy Rahn, who participated in the Met's Curatorial Studies classes through the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium, lessons learned from Met curators translated into an exhibition and an ethos. "When I was asked to curate an exhibition of black-and-white works for the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, Vermont, I immediately thought of Jenny Holzer's work, which I'd begun considering in the Met's Curatorial Colloquium," she says. "What I learned from Met curators helped me to both conceptualize and actualize this exhibition."

Rahn's exhibition, The Appearance of Clarity: Works in Black and White, featured the work of ten contemporary artists—Louis Cameron, Sharan Elran, Marietta Hoferer, Jenny Holzer, Sarah Horne, Chelsea Martin, Lynn Newcomb, Suzy Spence, Andreas Rentsch, and Nan Tull. The exhibition considered monochrome works in relation to the austerity of black and white, probing the concept of black and white to excavate subtle, double, or hidden meanings the apparent clarity of black and white might occlude. In the introductory text for the exhibition, Rahn wrote:

The crisp letter printed black on a white page or hovering, backlit, on a computer screen; a line, drawn in pencil or ink, dividing figure from ground; a dot whose points congeal into a photograph; all these marks draw upon the seemingly obvious contrast of black and white to translate our agreements, concepts, and observed realities into graphic approximations…The works exhibited here show not the rhetorical clarity of black and white, but its appearance—inviting us to leverage what we see to consider that which resists representation.

The Appearance of Clarity

Another view of the exhibition

The exhibition, which ran from June 20 through August 31, 2014, spanned the Helen Day Art Center's three spacious galleries and included some eighty objects. A materially and conceptually diverse exhibition, it included ceramics, works on paper, paintings on panel, steel sculpture, and a novel—all forms that Rahn's experiences at the Met helped prepare her to consider. "In my classes at the Met, we studied everything from Cycladic figures to Baroque paintings," Rahn states. "What emerged was the importance of understanding artworks deeply, of exhibiting them respectfully, and of helping people understand how these works relate to their historical moment, and perhaps to ours. That's an ethos that inspires me as a curator, and connects me to the wider community. My time at the Met continues to invigorate my work."