Following the Box
July 15th – September 16th, 2022
Guest curator: Jerri Zbiral and Alan Teller
About 70 years ago, towards the end of World War II, a U.S. soldier stationed in rural West Bengal grabbed his Speed Graphic 4x4” press camera, hopped into a jeep and went off into the countryside to photograph. Who was he? Why did he leave his airbase to do that? We have no idea. What we do know is that he created remarkable images — sensitive portraits of villagers, respectful views of temples, documents of everyday life, a few military scenes. And how did a shoebox full of 127 of his beautiful negatives and prints made in India end up at an estate sale in Chicago many years later? Curators Alan Teller and Jerri Zbiral made a serendipitous find and have been "following the box" ever since.
Following the Box, initially funded through a Fulbright award, is a mystery story, explored through an art exhibit and a documentary film. The film features interviews with 12 contemporary artists, 10 Indian and two American, who created work specifically inspired by this chance purchase of old photographs half a world away. Their artistic response can be seen in the exhibit form of this project. The exhibit and film illustrate the point that photographs are both windows to another time and place and mirrors of ourselves and our culture.
Each artist included in this project interpreted these images in their own unique way, shaped by their personal artistic vision and by the cultural net that envelops us all. This exhibit is an aesthetic and cross-cultural exploration of historic imagery, a celebration of universal power of photography to elicit memory and spark conversation. Following the Box is both a mystery story and a visual dialogue between Americans and Indians over time, ultimately a celebration of the power of art.