Goodbye Illuminated Archives; Welcome Participant

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Installation view of Participant, Vesna Pavlović’s exhibition at G Fine Art Gallery. Photo: Vesela Sretenović

As Illuminated Archive, an Intersections project by Vesna Pavlović is approaching its end (closing Sunday, September 28), a new project by the Serbian-born, Nashville-based artist just opened on Saturday, September 13, at G Fine Art in its new 14th Street location.

In this exhibition, the artist continues to explore the archive of images, this time drawn from the Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade, Serbia. This brings into play not only the photographic records of the socialist era under the President Josip Broz Tito, she remembers as Participant, but also her own memories of a time that no longer exists.

Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Vesela Sretenović

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Installation view of Participant, Vesna Pavlović’s exhibition at G Fine Art Gallery.

A Different Experience of Space

In this video, Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović discusses her recently installed work at the Phillips, Illuminated Archive. “In any typical museum setting, we’re used to seeing artworks on walls,” says Pavlović. “One of the pieces in the show is a 35-foot long sheer curtain with digitally transferred black and white imagery, which offers a different experience of space.”

What Happened to that Negative?

The image that Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović created with the deteriorated 8 x 10 negative from the museum archives is mysterious and fascinating to look at. But what happened to it?

Vesna Pavlović, Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4) (2014), 40 x 50 in. Framed archival pigment print. Ed. of 5. Courtesy of the artist and G Fine Art

The installation shots of the Phillips’s 1957 show, Swiss Peasant Art, were taken using large format cellulose triacetate sheet film or safety film (so called because it was less flammable than the previously available nitrate film.) The film captured clear, detailed images but over time the acetate film base shrunk, pulling away from the emulsion and causing bubbles and an effect called channeling. Thankfully, the archives has a full set of 8 x 10 contact prints (created by sandwiching photographic paper and the negative, generating a print the same size as the negative and preserving detail).

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1927. This is the print from the deteriorated negative appropriated by Vesna Pavlovic. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1957. This is the print from the deteriorated negative adapted by Vesna Pavlović. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art might seem like an unusual show for the Phillips, and it was. Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services—or SITES—the show was called “one of the most heartwarming exhibitions to be seen in Washington in a long time” in a review from The Washington Post. The objects were selected from Appenzell and Toggenburg and focused on the ceremony of Alpenaufzug, the annual upward trek of herds to the springtime mountain pastures. The show included paintings, wooden milk pails, cut brass, a clock, and other decorative items.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1927. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1957. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.