Arts & Culture

UK Art Museum presents shows on intersection of art forms, Faisal Abdu'Allah’s ‘Chair’


LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 7, 2023)  The University of Kentucky Art Museum is pleased to announce the opening of two new exhibitions that offer ways of understanding how an artist's ideas find physical form, and how discreet disciplines of visual art, music and dance can intersect. They will be on view from June 27-Nov. 18, 2023.

'Intentions – Actions – Outcomes' 

“Intentions – Actions – Outcomes” mines the legacies of Fluxus and conceptual art in the 1960s and 70s until today, as diverse artists question the nature of production, commodification, and reception; and use everyday objects and irreverent humor in sly and suggestive ways. Their works take the form of advertisements, diagrams, postcards, posters, scores, drawings, sculptures, and documentary photographs of private and public events. 

Artists in the exhibition include a veritable who's who of acclaimed performance artists whose events are documented in photographs and videos: Marina Abramović, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Janine Antoni, Chris Burden, Yoko Ono and Clifford Owens. Musicians, composers and choreographers include David Byrne, Merce Cunningham and Stephen Vitiello, represented by drawings and objects that address and invite bodily movement and sound improvisation. Mixed-media artists Charles Goldman, On Kawara, Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein, Dave McKenzie and Pope.L, offer meditations on identity, race, and vulnerability, in the form of sculptures, postcards, and multiples. 

A major component of the exhibition is Philip Corner’s installation “Metal Meditations,” 1972-77, which includes calligraphic scores, which must be interpreted to “play” several suspended instruments and objects. As an artist/composer/musician, Corner is known for his cultivation of activities that result from chance-based operations and improvisation. Visitors will have the opportunity to activate his sculpture with some instruction and supervision.  

Museum Director Stuart Horodner (who curated the exhibition) states, "This gathering of historical and contemporary works is a wonderful opportunity for faculty and students at our university to see how artists can use simple and precise intellectual gestures or extreme acts of endurance, risk, and physical labor to create unforgettable works of art that have stirred celebration and controversy for decades."  

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Ronald Feldman (1938–2023), whose gallery in New York City championed numerous performative and political artists including Eleanor Antin, Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, Leon Golub, and Hannah Wilke.

'Faisal Abdu'Allah: The Chair'

Faisal Abdu’Allah is a British-born, Wisconsin-based artist and barber, and his exhibition features work that looks at the act of barbering and its relationship to Black identity. It includes photographs in a variety of formats, including tintypes showing the tools of the trade (electric clippers, attachments and scissors), and images of Malcolm X in a series of screen prints engaging the history of the Black Power movement and issues of racial pride and empowerment. 

In “Hair Traits” (2016-present), Abdu’Allah’s hair is used to create the tonal range in large portraits on birch plywood, featuring young men who look at the camera with varying degrees of confidence. He has said, “Essentially, my DNA is tied/inculcated in their image. Our hair carries a trace of who we are, and it is extremely political. In the history of post-colonialism, the straighter your hair was, the higher up on the chain of respect you were.” 

In “The Barber’s Chair” (2017), the artist takes a utilitarian seat where the client sits to receive the barber’s skills and transforms it into a royal throne with the addition of tufted black leather and gold plating. This recalls the bling associated with rap and hip-hop musicians. By elevating the status of the chair, he celebrates the Black barbershop and its role in the dissemination of knowledge about social and political histories.  

"Faisal Abdu'Allah's mixed media works use photography and printmaking in expansive and accessible ways, and his history of creativity is deeply performative, drawing on his experience as a barber, and the legacy of the Black barbershop as a site for the dissemination of socio-political information and a space of community and solidarity," writes Horodner. "I think his exhibition will speak to our campus and Lexington community in deeply moving ways."

In association with the exhibition, Abdu’Allah will discuss his work 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in the Worsham Theatre, at the Gatton Student Center, as one of this year’s speakers in the Robert C. May Photography Lecture Series. He will also perform a Kentucky version of his “Live Salon” performances (2006-present) at the UK Art Museum on Saturday, Oct. 14, during which he cuts hair and engages in conversation about selfhood and society. 

The mission of the UK Art Museum, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art to enhance the quality of life for people of Kentucky through collecting, exhibiting, preserving and interpreting outstanding works of visual art from all cultures. Located in the Singletary Center for the Arts on the UK campus, the museum attracts approximately 25,000 diverse visitors per year. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.