History is both distributed and without title, unresolved and yet endlessly organized. For the Renaissance Society, that history comprises 100 years of artists, artworks, audiences, exhibitions, lectures, performances, publications, correspondence, posters, sketches, notes, and conversations. As a non-collecting institution, our past is sustained through a growing series of archival boxes and the fleeting memories that can’t fit inside.
Named for a work by artist Ree Morton that was presented at the Renaissance Society in 1981, Let Us Celebrate… pits joyous optimism against the weight of history, considering how long youth lingers and how the institution serves as a conduit for the flow of ideas. The exhibition aims to not only present the past, but also new ideas about the nature of the archive and the plasticity of the ever-evolving present moment. With a base at the University of Chicago’s historic Midway Studios, it also spreads to former homes of the Renaissance Society on the campus in Goodspeed and Wieboldt Halls, and its current site on the fourth floor of Cobb Hall.
The exhibition tells the story of the Renaissance Society’s first century through primary source materials, including photographs, notes, sketches, exhibition cards, posters, books, faxes, and more. A number of these documents are on loan from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, which hosts the Renaissance Society’s archives from 1915 to 1965, and the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago.
These artifacts are complemented by a number of artworks from the institution’s recent past, selected for their relationships to time, history, memory, organization, and the construction of context. They do not constitute a “group show,” but rather serve as punctuation for the artifacts presented. Participating artists include Michel Auder, Julia Fish, Gaylen Gerber, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rodney Graham, Miyoko Ito, Helen Mirra, William Pope.L, and Yutaka Sone.
Let Us Celebrate… is accompanied by a series of public programs that animate particular histories from the last century.
This exhibition is part of the Renaissance Society’s Centennial program.