Jan 5th 2023

Student Symposium: Monochrome Multitudes

@ Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago

5550 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

Opening Thursday, January 5th, from 5PM - 7:30PM

On view through Saturday, January 8th

This student-organized symposium responds to Monochrome Multitudes. University of Chicago students from a broad array of academic disciplines will present papers that demonstrate the many registers by which “the monochrome” is studied and interpreted.

Organized by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry at the Smart Museum of Art, the symposium draws upon the expanding narratives within the exhibition and consider the following questions:

  • How does monochromy as an artistic practice relate to race, politics, culture, gender, sexuality, and a host of other social, historical, political, and cultural issues?
  • How does a global frame complicate the traditional monochrome practices in North American art history?
  • How might we further imagine the possibilities of varying media and materiality in monochrome art?

It features papers and creative projects from UChicago undergraduate and graduate students across multiple fields of study: Haochen Martin Bai, Lauren Rooney, Claire Rich, Seth Nguyen, Avery Fischer, Sophia Ware, and Xavior Lewis.

FREE, open to the public. Please RSVP to attend the symposium in person or register for the Zoom link.


Session 1
5:20–6:20 pm
Cochrane-Woods Art Center, 5540 S. Greenwood Avenue, room 157

Seth Nguyen, AB ’22
Mourning in Monochrome

Xavior Lewis,  AB ‘23
Monoliths and Multitudes: The Call, E.W., and New Negro

Avery Fischer, AB ’24
Before the Blackout

Sophia Ware, MAPH ’23
Black: The Color of Identity in Contemporary Fashion 

6:20–6:30 pm
10-minute break to walk over to the Logan Center

Session 2
6:30–7:30 pm
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th Street, Performance Penthouse

Lauren Rooney, AB ’24
Satirical Monochromes and Self-Conscious Modernism: A Serious Talk about Joke Paintings

Haochen(Martin) Bai, MAPH ’23
Imperatives under colors: revisiting “Les Magiciens de la Terre”

Claire Rich, MAPH ’23
“Going on and on”: The “Loop” in Jaime Davidovich’s Blue, Red, Yellow (1974)

Closing performance

Monotone Silence Symphony

Thursday, January 5, 7:45 pm
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street, Performance Hall

As the culminating event for the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition Monochrome Multitudes, a UChicago student-organized orchestra and choir will perform French artist Yves Klein’s Monotone Silence Symphony. Known mostly for his paintings in a blue hue called International Klein Blue, the Monotone Silence Symphony transforms Klein’s monochromatic paintings and sculpture into a monotone auditory experience.

FREE and open to the public. Advanced registration encouraged.

This performance is sponsored by the Logan Center for the Arts and the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry at the Smart Museum of Art.


This exhibition traces “the monochrome” as a fundamental if surprisingly expansive artistic practice. Revisiting classic modernist ideas about flatness, idealized form, and colors, Monochrome Multitudes opens up this seemingly reductive art to reveal its global resonance and creative possibilities while working toward a more expansive narrative of 20th and 21st century art.

Within the exhibition, art is presented in monochromatic groupings—rooms of blue, white, yellow, gray, black, and red works respectively—alternating with thematic sections where single colors engage concerns with the body, urban space, sound, and other topics. Switching between these two types of spaces, the exhibition suggests that works that look alike are often quite different, and that works that look different can share historical, thematic, or conceptual propositions. Throughout, Monochrome Multitudes engages North American art in a global dialogue and emphasizes the significance of multiple media ranging from weaving to wall-painting to video, and multiple materials including footballs, pantyhose, and Vinylite.


Monochrome Multitudes features works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mary Abbott, Josef Albers, Alphonse Allais, Lynda Benglis, Ernő Berda, Mark Bradford, Alexander Calder, Enrico Castellani, Alan Cohen, Bethany Collins, Barbara Crane, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jaime Davidovich, Walter De Maria, José de Rivera, Roy DeCarava, Beauford Delaney, Laddie John Dill, Charles and Ray Eames, Lucio Fontana, Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Frank Gehry, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Wade Guyton, Irena Haiduk, David Hartt, Arturo Herrera, Carmen Herrera, Sheila Hicks, Jörg Immendorff, Lotte Jacobi, Derek Jarman, Rashid Johnson, Jennie C. Jones, Samuel Levi Jones, Ellsworth Kelly, Byron Kim, Lyman Kipp, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Tadaaki Kuwayama, Kwon Young-woo, Lee Ufan, Marilyn Lenkowsky, Ma Qiusha, Sally Mann, Allan McCollum, Manfred Mohr, Linda Montano, Mun Pyung, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Jules Olitski, Palermo, Palermo & Gerhard Richter, Dan Peterman, Francis Picabia, John Plumb, Avery Preesman, Tobias Rehberger, Ad Reinhardt, Dorothea Rockburne, Ugo Rondinone, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Joe Scanlan, David Schutter, Richard Serra, F.N. Souza, Ted Stamm, Jessica Stockholder, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Hiroyuki Tajima, Tony Tasset, Anne Truitt, Naama Tsabar, William Turnbull, James Turrell, Raoul Ubac, Günther Uecker, Günter Umberg, Wolf Vostell, H. C. Westermann, Amanda Williams, Karl Wirsum, Haegue Yang, Yang Jiechang, and Claire Zeisler.

Expanding Narratives

Monochrome Multitudes is part of the Smart Museum’s ongoing “Expanding Narratives” series that mobilizes collection installations to reevaluate canonic histories and curatorial strategies. The majority of the approximately 120 works on display are drawn from the Smart Museum’s collection. They are supplemented by a number of loans from UChicago alumni, Chicago-area collections, and beyond.


Image: Claire Zeisler, Triptych, 1967, Knotted and tied dyed wool. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Starrels, Sr., 1973.213a-c.

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