History of Art and Architecture

Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia


Friday, September 5, 2014 - 10:00am to Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 4:00pm

The University of Pittsburgh History of Art and Architecture presents Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia, a collaborative exhibition project based on research by students in the Department of History of Art and Architecture.

This exhibition emerged from a combined graduate and undergraduate seminar taught in Spring 2014 by Professors Drew Armstrong and Josh Ellenbogen devoted to the theme “visual knowledge.”  Graduate and undergraduate students in the course worked together to explore how visual materials shape disciplinary pursuits through examination and analysis of art works, illustrated atlases, encyclopedias, scientific treatises, and other volumes and objects housed in rich collections in and beyond the city of Pittsburgh. 

Configuring Disciplines examines modes of visualization developed from the Enlightenment to the Modern period (18th-20th centuries) and used to represent knowledge in a variety of academic disciplines.  Books and artworks drawn from Pittsburgh libraries and museums raise questions about the intrinsic qualities of two- and three-dimensional media (engraving, photography, digital projection, plaster models, buildings) and their function within fields of inquiry ranging from astronomy, botany and physics to aesthetics, ethnography and history.

Through and array of portraits, maps, tables and timelines, Configuring Disciplines explores how image genres have been put to use by artists, designers and scientists to communicate ideas, principles and abstractions to audiences ranging from children to specialists.

The exhibition invites viewers to consider the ways in which visualizations are deployed and manipulated to construct and transmit ideas. What assumptions are embedded in different image types? What meanings can be expressed by different media? How is knowledge suppressed or enhanced by different graphic conventions and artistic choices?

Professor Armstrong and Isabelle Chartier, curator of the University Art Gallery, secured generous funding from the University of Pittsburgh Central Research Development Fund in order to stage Configuring Disciplines.  The show draws on the holdings of the University of Pittsburgh Hillman Special Collections, Frick Fine Arts Library and Falk Library of the Health Sciences, the Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives, the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Warhol Museum, the William R. Oliver Special Collections Room at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, as well as the National Library of Medicine in Washington D.C.  We are grateful to these institutions for allowing us to show materials from their outstanding collections in this exhibition. 

We are especially proud of this display as one of the first major outcomes of our new Constellations program in the department.  The Constellations are dedicated to fostering project-based and collaborative endeavors that bring faculty, students, the resources of our Gallery, and local arts institutions into dialogue with one another around forward looking initiatives to explore visual phenomena and how they shape our intellectual, cultural, and material environment.  

The exhibition closes on October 5, but here is a list of our special hours and events:

Friday, September 19: 10am - 6pm

With a guided tour of the exhibition at 5pm

Saturday September 20: 11am - 5pm

Sunday September 21: 11am - 5pm

Thursday, September 25: 10am - 6pm 

Saturday October 4: 11am - 5pm 

Sunday October 5: 11am - 5pm

Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10am - 4pm

The gallery also opens by appointment: contact uag@pitt.edu or 412-648-2423 to visit the exhibition outside of these hours.

The University Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the Frick Fine Arts Building on Schenley Drive, across from the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Admission is always free.

For general information on the gallery and the exhibition, visit www.haa.pitt.edu, or contact uag@pitt.edu or call 412-648-2423.

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For more information on the exhibition please visit http://www.haa.pitt.edu/news-events/configuring-disciplines-special-hours