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Major exhibition of work by artist Summer Wheat opens at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Summer Wheat, Biting Nails, 2018, acrylic on aluminum mesh, 68 x 96 inches. Collection of Christy and Bill Gautreaux, Kansas City, Missouri. © Summer Wheat, Courtesy of the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles. Photo: Adam Reich.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art will present Summer Wheat: Blood, Sweat, and Tears, with an opening reception taking place Thursday, February 6, 2020, from 6:00–8:00 p.m., followed by an artist talk on Friday, February 7, at 6:00 p.m. The exhibition will remain on view through May 24, 2020.

"This major exhibition of work by artist Summer Wheat presents a period of development in process and reinforces her commitment to a strong presentation of female subjects,” stated Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at Kemper Museum. “Evolving from Wheat's drawing practice, these vibrant and gestural tapestry-like paintings present new context for advancing historical representations of women, community, labor, and exuberance.”

In Blood, Sweat, and Tears, artist Summer Wheat’s vibrantly colored paintings depict a community of heroic females doing the “heavy lifting and running things.” Using an inventive process of pushing paint through aluminum mesh, Wheat’s large-scale paintings resemble medieval tapestries showing female figures as hunters, fishers, and beekeepers. These women rewrite historical imagery through themes such as labor, discovery, and expressions of joy where traditionally only men were present.

Introducing the technical progression of Wheat’s work over the last three years, this exhibition further emphasizes the relationship between drawing, painting, and sculpture. Beginning with drawings referencing inspiration from a broad spectrum of art historical references, ranging from Egyptian pictography to Native American imagery, from French Post-Impressionism to American Pop Art, Wheat questions the history of these narratives by proposing a contemporary perspective.

“The imagery in this exhibition presents a tradition in which women were the original hunters, technologists, and artists,” says Wheat. “Blood, Sweat, and Tears, depicts women catching and releasing fish, a symbol of fertility and transformation, as well as female beekeepers and gardeners. This array of women connected by geometric patterns echoes the psychological space of women supporting each other. They are marching together connecting to creatures from land and water, demonstrating an inherent link to natural elements and to the intricate depths of the unconscious.”

Blood, Sweat, and Tears is a milestone for Wheat as she continues to be inventive with her process and the reauthoring of everyday life, and debuts a number of new paintings and drawings created specifically for this exhibition. Blood, Sweat, and Tears is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and curated by Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs.

A full-color catalogue will be available in conjunction with this exhibition; authors include: Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art; Nina Bozicnik, associate curator, Henry Art Gallery; Anna Stothart, director, Lehmann Maupin Gallery; Owen Duffy, art historian, writer, and curator based in New York; Yael Friedman, New York-based freelance writer; and David Pagel, L.A. Times critic, professor of art theory and criticism at Claremont Graduate University, and adjunct curator at the Parrish Museum; with an introduction by Sean O’Harrow, executive director, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Summer Wheat (b. 1977, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) has had major solo exhibitions at KMAC, Louisville, Kentucky (2019); Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, California (2018); Smack Mellon, New York, New York (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (2017); and Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (2016). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (2018); Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, New York (2018); and Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, New York (2017). Her work is in the collections of the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina; The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington; de Young Museum, San Francisco, California; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; and Pérez Art Museum, Miami, Florida. Wheat is the recipient of the 2019 Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago.

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