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Art & Art History

Concerning Truth

Friday, December 11, 1998–Saturday, January 16, 1999

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Artists: Stephanie Brooks, Michael Hernandez de Luna, Carol Jackson, John Arndt, J.S.G. Boggs, Thompson Owen, Steve Juras, Ho Siu-kee, and Xu Bing.

The lion has traditionally been associated with institutional authority through its historical use in heraldry. The Spanish expression “El león no es tan fiero como lo pintan,” or “the lion is not as fierce as they paint him” refers to the deceiving nature of appearances and the ambiguities inherent in visual representations. The exhibition Concerning Truth, curated by Pablo Helguera, sought to bring together the work of artists who play with the border of truth and falsity, both visually and contextually. By using the context as a medium, these artists create invented realities that intrigue and often disorient the viewer. Picasso’s famous phrase, “Art is a lie which helps us to see the truth,” still applies today in the work of several artists who play with fiction, reality, and falsity in the creation of their work. From the 17th century tradition of Trompe l’oeil painting, through photo-realist work, visual artists have played with the visual truth. In the information age, the boundaries of authenticity are often broken beyond the visual and into the contextual, whether unintentionally (such as in Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds) or with a direct intent, as in the work of the artists included in this exhibition.

The purpose of the exhibit was to show, through the artworks, how the presence of truth and falsity play an important role in our everyday life, including in our communication systems. Joan Fontcuberta has extensively explored issues of “truth” in photography and in the museum space. This has taken him to invent fake documentation of an imagined incident, or carefully present false, yet convincing, photographic documentation of imagined species in a convincing context. In the realm of creating fake documentation, Chicago artist Carol Jackson creates fake tax forms which are distributed as real ones. In another project, Jackson transformed a gallery space (Chicago Project Room) into a store, altering the identity of the very space where she was showing. Similarly, Estonian artist Mark Viljus alters already existing installations, playing with the pre-existing content of a display space. Matt Liederstam makes truthful reproductions of classic genre paintings, which undergo slight modifications that are not immediately apparent to the viewer. Mike Hernandez de Luna has produced various series of postal stamps which actually have been taken as real by the US postal office. In the realm of challenging our legal systems, G.S.G. Boggs draws strikingly real-looking dollar bills which he “exchanges” in stores. Stephanie Brooks manipulates public signs and conventional informational formats to give a critical commentary on our obsession with classification. In a similar fashion, Thomson Owen creates fake brands and labels which often replace the real ones on supermarket shelves. Michael Ray Charles creates unsettling banner work which appears to have historical authenticity but is rather an ironical comment on commercial America’s depiction of African Americans. Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders, wrote an essay to accompany the exhibition.

Finally, Concerning Truth was not purely about truth and falsity. Rather, truth and falsity became mediums that generated a sense of wonder. In Dr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders, Weschler uses the collection of the Museum of Jurassic Technology as a point of departure to reflect on the sense of wonder and curiosity created by exhibition spaces, which in a way was the real originator of our modern concept of the exhibition space. In a similar way, Concerning Truth was intended to transcend the polarity of true vs. false, and help the viewers think about the issues that each work raises. At the end, it is not so important to know whether something is based on true or false elements, but rather on whether it invites us to think in a different way about our reality.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s 1926 gallery and TBA also participated in this exhibition.


Concerning Truth is made possible by the School of Art and Design, the College of Architecture and the Arts, and supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.


John Arndt

Backboard, 1998
Acrylic on MDO, 35 x 48 x 1 in.

Oil on linen, 4 x 2 x 2 in.

Bone, 1997
Acrylic on wood, 3 x 17 x 4 in.

Loaf, 1998
Acrylic on MDO, 4 x 9 x 5 in.

Moth, 1998
India ink and gouache on paper, paint brush handle and bristles, 1 x 1 in.

, 1998
Acrylic and medex, 5 x 23 x 18 in.

Vine, 1998
Sawdust on twine and thread with epoxy, 1x 1 x 192 in.

Xu Bing

Calligraphy Copy Book, 1998
Mixed media installation

New English Calligraphy, 1998
Paper and ink, 67 x 130 in.

J.S.G. Boggs

Perfect Counterfeit #C 87622198 B, 1995
Canograph, 2 1/2 x 6 in.

Transaction, 1989
Mixed media installation

Stephanie Brooks

Open Minded – Closed Minded, 1998
2 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 3/4 in.

Opinion Polls: 16% Believe, 90% Undecided, 1998
Aluminum and enamel, 3 1/2 x 22 x 2 in. each

Opinion Polls: 59% Disagree, 26% Disapprove, 1998
Aluminum and enamel, 3 1/2 x 22 x 2 in. each

Michael Ray Charles

(Liberty Brothers Permanent Daily Circus Presents) Handini’s Great Escape, 1996
Acrylic, latex, and copper penny on paper, 39 1/4 x 60 in.

Michael Hernandez de Luna

The Jackal, 1995
Computer generated laser print, 32 x 16 in.

Love 2, 1996
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

Meet the Hunts, 1998
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

Nude in Body Bag, 1997
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

Postal Experiment: Fake Stamp – Real Stamp, 1998
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

The Singing Skeleton
, 1998/1996 envelope
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

Tejano Vato, 1996
Computer generated laser print, 20 x 16 in.

Carol Jackson

Revue, 1998
Installation in windows along Van Buren Street

Steven Juras

Steven’s and Back, 1997
Ink on paper, 25 x 36 in.

Thomas Owen

Home Management Seminar in a Box, 1996
Mixed media, 12 x 20 x 5 in.

Ho Siu-kee

Closed System, 1995
Installation (mixed media and color photo copy)

Finger Compass, 1996
Installation (mixed media and color photo copy)

To Melt a Frozen Lake, 1995
Video and mixed media installation

Walking machine, 1995
Installation (mixed media and color photo copy)


Helguera Head Shot Pablo Helguera (born 1971) is a New York based artist working with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, socially engaged art and performance. Helguera ’s work focuses in a variety of topics ranging from history, pedagogy, sociolinguistics, ethnography, memory and the absurd, in formats that are widely varied including the lecture, museum display strategies, musical performances and written fiction.

His work as an educator has usually intersected his interest as an artist, making his work often reflects on issues of interpretation, dialogue, and the role of contemporary culture in a global reality. This intersection is best exemplified in his project, The School of Panamerican Unrest, a nomadic think-tank that physically crossed the continent by car from Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, making 40 stops in between. Covering almost 20,000 miles, it is considered one of the most extensive public art projects on record.

Pablo Helguera performed individually at the Museum of Modern Art /Gramercy Theater, in 2003, where he showed his work Parallel Lives. His musical composition, Endingness has been performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Helguera has exhibited or performed at venues such as the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; ICA Boston; RCA London; 8th Havana Biennal, PERFORMA 05, Havana; Shedhalle, Zurich; MoMA P.S.1, New York; Brooklyn Museum; IFA Galerie, Bonn; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo; MALBA museum in Buenos Aires; Ex-Teresa Espacio Alternativo in Mexico City; The Bronx Museum; Artist Space; and Sculpture Center; amongst many others. His work has been reviewed in Art in America, Artforum, The New York Times, ArtNews, amongst others. In 2008 he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and also was the recipient of a 2005 Creative Capital Grant. In 2011 he was named winner of the International Award of Participatory Art of the Region Emilia-Romagna in Italy.

Helguera has worked since 1991 in a variety of contemporary art museums, most recently as head of public programs at the Education department of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1998-2005). Since 2007, he is Director of Adult and Academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has organized close to 1000 public events in conjunction with nearly 100 exhibitions. In 2010 he was appointed pedagogical curator of the 8th Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which took place in September 2011. He is currently Senior Resident of Location One in New York. He will be presenting a solo exhibition at Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 2012.


Postcard: Concerning Truth