The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University: Three Decades, 1986–2017

The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University: Three Decades, 1986–2017

New Brunswick, NJ (Aug. 7, 2023) — In the early 1980s, visionary artist and Rutgers University Distinguished Professor Emerita Judith K. Brodsky set out to rectify the gender and racial inequities in the art world by establishing a print- and papermaking studio that provided visiting artists residencies primarily for women artists and artists of color. Pioneers like Brodsky laid the groundwork for the diversity that exists today. This fall, the Zimmerli Art Museum presents the first museum survey of work created by artists such as Faith Ringgold, Melvin Edwards, and Jaune Quick-To-See Smith at this highly influential atelier—now known as the Brodsky Center—founded in 1986 and remaining active on campus for 30 years.

“We are proud to present this collection, with its focus on women and gender nonconforming artists, as well as artists of color, who found a space that supported them when they were widely excluded from the art world,” said Maura Reilly, director of the Zimmerli. “The exhibition also demonstrates Rutgers’ mission of providing innovative opportunities, allowing these artists to become catalysts for cultural transformation in New Jersey, across the United States, and worldwide.”

From its inception, the Brodsky Center strategically placed itself at the vanguard of art making, not only with print and papermaking techniques but also with innovative ideas and narratives. In addition, Rutgers visual arts students had the unique opportunity to work side-by-side with professional artists and the Center became an intergenerational facilitator and a model of democracy.

During the Brodsky’s history at Rutgers, more than 350 artists expanded their previous realms of thought. Prior to their residencies at the Center, many worked in other mediums: painting, sculpture, video, performance. But the processes of print and paper, new to the artists, allowed them to experiment with concepts that emerged in the 21st century as dominant concerns in the contemporary art world: race and ethnic identity, nonconforming gender issues, climate and the environment, the politics of language, and immigration.

As emblems that capture the essence of the Brodsky Center, five representative artworks have been singled out for placement at the entrance to the exhibition: Willie Birch, Million Man March (1995); Willie Cole, Silex Male, Ritual (2004); Marina Gutierrez, Reaching Mut (1994); Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, What Is an American? (2003); and Femfolio (2007) featuring a suite of prints by 20 pioneering feminist artists: Emma Amos, Miriam Schapiro, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Snyder, and June Wayne, to name only a few.

The remaining works are organized into nine thematic sections, exemplifying the Brodsky Center’s mission to insert new narratives into the American cultural mainstream: Cultural Vitality and Social Justice; Documenting Place: Real and Imagined; Escaping the Unitary Linear; Icons and Symbols; Innovations: Looking at the Portrait; The Sages; Tribulations and Endings; and Visualizing Texts.

The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University: Three Decades, 1986–2017 is organized by guest curator Dr. Ferris Olin, Rutgers’ Distinguished Professor Emerita, with collaborating curator Christine Giviskos, the Zimmerli’s curator of prints and drawings and European art.

To complement the exhibition, the Zimmerli spotlights new works in Judith K. Brodsky: Inside and Outside, curated by Reilly, also on view from Sept. 13 to Dec. 22. A collection of wall-sized color drawings by Brodsky—based on photographs the artist took of herself during the pandemic lockdown—demonstrate how her drawing methods derive from her printmaking.

A series of exhibition-related programs is scheduled, including: an art-making workshop, a gallery talk, and an artist talk (check the museum calendar for more details). In addition, the exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue of the same title, with Olin’s essay “New Narratives for the American Cultural Mainstream,” which details the Center’s impact on transforming the art world, as well as artists’ biographies and printing processes. It will be available in the museum and from Rutgers Press.

This project is supported in part by donors to the Zimmerli’s Major Exhibition Fund: Kathrin and James Bergin, Sundaa and Randy Jones, and Heena and Hemanshu Pandya, with additional support provided by IFPDA Foundation, Alta and Marc Malberg, and an anonymous donor.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, with strengths in the Art of the Americas, Asian Art, European Art, Russian Art & Soviet Nonconformist Art, and Original Illustrations for Children’s Literature. The permanent collections include works in all mediums, spanning from antiquity to the present day, providing representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which stands among America’s highest-ranked, most diverse public research universities. Founded in 1766, as one of only nine colonial colleges established before the American Revolution, Rutgers is the nation’s eighth-oldest institution of higher learning.

Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

The Zimmerli Art Museum is open Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, as well as major holidays and the month of August.

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