KCRW's art critic, Edward Goldman, describes the collection of objects this way: an exhibition that "instead of lecturing, keeps you awake and amused about thousands of ways that various cultures and eras intertwine." Fowler Museum director Marla C. Berns calls it a modern version of the Renaissance cabinets of curiosities or "wonder cabinets."
Goldman and Berns are talking about UCLA Collects! Bodies of Knowledge, an exhibition at the Fowler Museum that uses the human body as its theme. The exhibition explores the role of collections at a major research university and how collections have played a part in UCLA's pursuit of knowledge.
Visitors will see the body's physical and conceptual manifestations through a remarkable variety of objects from many disciplines, geographic regions and eras. Highlighted are medical and anatomical treatises, New Guinea sculpture, Mexican papier-mâché figures, prints, masks, photography, artists' books and Native American rock art, among others.
Goldman praises the way the exhibition breaks boundaries: "Inspiring and often outrageous juxtapositions of the artifacts are meant to not so much inform, but allow for the pure pleasure of visual surprises and stimulation." As an example, he cites a contemporary drawing and an old African wood sculpture grouped to "stare at each other as distant cousins struck by their family resemblance."
Part of the curatorial teamUCLA Collects! Bodies of Knowledge juxtaposes significant and diverse collections of five UCLA institutions: the Fowler Museum of Cultural History; the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum; Special Collections in the Charles E. Young Research Library; History and Special Collections in the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library; and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
"When viewed together," explains Berns, who led the curatorial team, "we hope to suggest new links across cultures and disciplines — especially between the arts and sciences — and to create a modern day "wonder cabinet" to delight and inspire our visitors."