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University Galleries presents Alison Ruttan: Unmaking of Places and Histories, on view October 25-December 15

Photograph of art installation by Alison Ruttan depicting a series of buildings in various states of destruction from complete destruction to fully intact.

Alison Ruttan: All Down the Line from the series Dark City, 2016-2017. Series of nine white ceramic buildings. Courtesy of the artist.

University Galleries of Illinois State University is pleased to present Alison Ruttan: Unmaking of Places and Histories on view October 25 through December 15, 2019. All events are free and open to the public.

Unmaking of Places and Histories features new and recent architectural ceramic sculptures by Chicago-based artist Alison Ruttan. Ruttan draws on the histories of art, architecture, and warfare to address the aftermath of conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, as a way of, in her words, “bearing witness from here.” One gallery is dedicated to the artist’s Dark City, a tabletop row of nine white ceramic buildings referencing the widespread destruction in Syria. The row of forms begins with a solid building, seemingly intact, but the other eight progressively crumble and flatten. Ruttan cites the influence of artists Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt in terms of remaking similar geometric forms, but in her work, various states of collapse and devastation are evident within the modern grid. The artist sees the small scale of her works as a “purposely intimate anti-war monument.”

The exhibition also premieres several new works for which Ruttan embedded her ceramic buildings and debris within found furniture. The blue-glazed ruins of a building reach upward from a narrow wooden dresser; a pile of pale gray rubble overflows the open drawer of a white nightstand; the remains of a black building freeze in a state of collapse into dark nesting tables. Where the tabletop sculptures of city blocks address the macro view, these works help make visible the impact of destruction on individual domestic environments.

Events and programming 

  • Thursday, October 24 at noon
    Artist lecture
  • Friday, October 25, from 5 to 7 p.m.
    Artist reception
  • Saturday, November 9 at 1 p.m.
    Exhibition tour and workshop co-presented with the Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM). Participants (ages 7-10) will meet at the CDM, come to University Galleries for an exhibition tour, and return to the CDM for an exhibition-related artmaking activity. Registration is required for this free program at This program is made possible by an Illinois Prairie Community Foundation—Mirza Arts and Culture grant awarded to the CDM.
  • Thursday, November 14 at 9 a.m.
    Stroller tour

Alison Ruttan: Unmaking of Places and Histories is organized by University Galleries’ Director and Chief Curator Kendra Paitz. The exhibition and programming are supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Field trip support is provided by a grant from the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant Program.

Field trip program, curator-led tours, and workshops are available by appointment throughout the exhibition. Contact or (309) 438-5487 to schedule a visit. Stipends are available for K-12 schools or community organizations to offset the costs of transportation.

University Galleries, a unit in the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, is located at 11 Uptown Circle, Suite 103, at the corner of Beaufort and Broadway streets. Parking is available in the Uptown Station parking deck located directly above the University Galleries—the first hour is free, as well as any time after 5:01 p.m.

Please contact or call (309) 438-5487 if you need to arrange an accommodation to participate in any events related to these exhibitions.

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