This exhibition surveyed Kim Abeles work since 1979, when she first started worked in series that became a structure for her artistic production. The twelve series included her Kimonos and Shrines, both inspired from time she lived in Japan; Fact/Fiction Boxes, assemblages that question authoritative texts and authenticity; Biographical Portraits of political figures such as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg or Rosa Parks; Image of St. Bernadette, the young visionary of Lourdes; Pilgrimage to the Wedge, a performance and environmental work; Long Exposures, a feminist portrait of an artist in her later years, HIV/AIDS Projects, sculptures and the HIV/AIDS Tarot, blingual educational materials, Habeus Corpus, interrogating personal identity, liberty and legality and the Smog Collectors, objects and installations with images etched from particulate matter, for which she has become internationally recognized.
Abeles’ practice is research-based: she chooses a subject, investigates it thoroughly, then assembles the information, illustrations and source materials in notebooks before producing the artwork. In this regard, her process of acquiring and assembling knowledge is indeed “encyclopedic” and her work often revolves around a particular person or human struggle. For these reasons, the title of exhibition is Kim Abeles Encyclopedia Person.
The exhibition publication, critical to the concept of the show, riffs off of a vintage 1960s World Book encyclopedia with its colorful graphics, hand drawings, charts and maps. A cross between an artists’ book and a catalogue, Kim and I conceived the idea for this then collaborated with artist Susan Silton who designed the award-winning publication.
After traveling to the Forum for Contemporary Art in St. Louis and the Fresno Museum of Art, the United States Information Agency (U.S.I.A.) funded an exhibition tour to Latin America that traveled to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile, the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Complejo Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile. The Encylopedia Persona book was also published in both Spanish and Portuguese for these venues.