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October 18, 2019 | 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Category: Art Show
Location: Art Building Art Department Gallery | Map
5400 Gullen Mall
Detroit, MI 48202
Cost: Free
Audience: Academic Staff, Alumni, Community, Current Graduate Students, Current Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Parents, Prospective Students, Staff

Exhibition:  Arrivals | Departures: Work by Jeffrey Abt, 1989–2019

Dates:  October 18 through December 6, 2019

Opening Reception:  Friday, October 18, 5-8PM 

Gallery Hours:  Wednesdays through Fridays, 1-5PM 



The James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History is pleased to present Arrivals | Departures: Work by Jeffrey Abt, 1989–2019at the Art Department Gallery, October 18 through December 6, 2019 with an opening reception on Friday, October 18, 5-8PM.  This event is free and open to the general public.  

This exhibit surveys work Jeffrey Abt produced during his time as a professor in the Duffy Department of Art and Art History, Wayne State University, from 1989 to his retirement in 2019.

The exhibit’s title, Arrivals | Departures, refers not only to Abt’s passage through Wayne State, but to the beginnings and conclusions of several bodies of work sampled in the show, as well as to underlying concerns that run through several of them. From the beginning of his time in Detroit, as seen in the earliest piece in the exhibit—Museum of Absence, Abt has explored various facets of museum culture. These include transience, which may seem paradoxical because museums are commonly perceived as permanent and unchanging, and museums as viewing machines.

Questions of transience are considered in two bodies of work: The Gallery viewseries and the Wandering Gallery project. The Gallery viewseries contains views of museum interiors—at such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, and Metropolitan Museum of Art—from which works of art have been removed. Evidence of change remains in the voids left by works taken from galleries for loan to other institutions, conservation, or study. Depending on how long those works were on display, or the nature of the installations, their absences can become present in distinctive and evocative ways. The Wandering Galleryprojectis based on a much less visible aspect of museums—the behind-the-scenes, never-ending cycle of unpacking and packing, installation and de-installation, and documentation and interpretation associated with changing exhibitions. Two of the works in this series are self-contained mini galleries designed to receive viewer comments, possess their own travel records and means of conveyance, and sometimes reveal the wear and tear of their transportation. Wandering Galleryproject(summer 2007) brings these ideas down to a personal level, translating the structure and hardware of an airline-style, carry-on roller bag into a portable artwork. The concept of artworks designed to travel and thus incorporating in their creation the means of their preservation and display, also present in Wandering Galleryproject(workspace), aims to make visible the often-invisible dynamics of the temporary exhibition as an intimate and brief encounter.

Two other bodies of work, the Museumseries and the Wishing Collection—along with selected individual pieces, consider museums as viewing machines. The Museumseries investigates the visual parallels between galleries and sacred spaces, particularly religious sanctuaries. These include environments intended to foster contemplation, whether for the purposes of inspecting artworks or spiritual introspection: interiors so large they dwarf visitors, the uses of natural and artificial light, and the articulation of architectural expanses to guide a visitor’s attention. The pieces in the Wishing Collectionand related works evince the collection, close study, classification, and depiction associated with museums since the seventeenth century as centers of learned inquiry. 

The exhibition concludes with a sequence of self-portraits that reflect many of the foregoing concerns; and the beginning of a new series of works extending reflections on transience and travel into the realm of migration.


Biographical sketch:

Jeffrey Abt is Professor Emeritus in the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History of Wayne State University. He has a BFA degree from Drake University and he studied at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem before completing an MFA at Drake. Abt pursued curatorial and exhibitions work at the Wichita Art Museum, the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago, and the University’s Smart Museum of Art, before coming to Wayne State. He’s an artist and writer, his artwork is in museum and corporate collections throughout the United States, and he has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in America and abroad. Abt’s writings include the books American Egyptologist: The Life of James Henry Breasted and the Creation of His Oriental Institute published in 2012 by the University of Chicago Press and Valuing Detroit’s Art Museum: A History of Fiscal Abandonment and Rescuepublished by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.



The James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History is a division of Wayne State’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, educating the next generation of visual artists, designers and art historians. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s midtown cultural center, is a premier urban research university offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 28,000 students. 

For more information about this event, please contact Tom Pyrzewski at (313) 577-2980 or