Diptych of Vietnam village. Left image: wooden bridge, bicycle, shacks, and palm trees. Right image: shacks along narrow dirt road with man working in foreground.

Past Presence

Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408

Past Presence brings together art from around the world that interrogates the stories we tell about the past and the ways these narratives may shape our present realities. Traditional means of recording and communicating histories can prove inadequate to the present need to come to terms with the past. Many artists since the 1970s have sought to bridge this gap by using historical episodes and memories as the focus of their art. Some of the artists in Past Presence explore family histories, some delve into personal memories, and others seek to understand larger historical conditions. These works provide a visual model for understanding the operation of memory, while also exposing some of its limitations and gaps. They visualize both the difficulty of fully grasping the past, and the necessity of engaging with it.

Please note: The Spencer Museum continues to assess the safety of reopening our galleries to the public while following best practices for social distancing. Therefore, exhibition dates may change. We appreciate your patience as we respond to this ongoing situation.

Selected images