Daily Art Moment: Sara Cwynar

Encyclopedia Grid (Acropolis), Sara Cwynar, 40 x 32 inches, chromogenic print mounted on Plexiglass. A vertical rectangular print showing 51 postcard size images of the Acropolis arranged on a blue felt ground. The images are different sizes, both in color and black and white and mostly in a landscape format. Each also contains the image of a finger or two as if holding the picture. They are arranged in five vertical rows with the last row at right having an additional two images in portrait format. One of these images is the only one that does not show the Acropolis but instead a black and white picture of palm fronds and a banana bunch with a fingertip in color.

Sara Cwynar’s Encyclopedia Grid (Acropolis) tugs at my wanderlust. During the pandemic, I’ve traveled very little and have not been very far from Portland. Here, Cwynar arranges what appear to be clips and cuttings of the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Greece on a blue backdrop. Each image in the grid shows a finger placed on a reproduction of this historic site taken from collected postcards, travel books, and art history textbooks. Layers of picture-taking pile up in the composition; they suggest the ways that images inform our memories, affect our perceptions, and shape our world view. How often do we remember a vacation spot based on the photo we took or the postcard we bought?

The repeated visual presence of her finger is an important detail for me: touching these mementos and paging through a guide book resonate in my body in ways that swiping or clicking a screen doesn’t. I find this work compelling in the way Cwynar playfully pins down this symbol of Western civilization, ordering its many visual representations like kitschy specimens to be poked and prodded with questions about history, relevance, and power.

Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Sara Cwynar (American, born 1985). Encyclopedia Grid (Acropolis), 2014. Chromogenic print mounted on Plexiglas. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Contemporary Art Auction Proceeds, 2017.77.1 © unknown, research required.

Detail: View of the artwork showing two vertical rows of images. The first row contains four pictures of the Acropolis, the first three in color and the last in black and white. The second row has three clippings, the first and last in black and white and the third in color. Each show the Acropolis from a different viewpoint, close-up or from afar. They also contain the image of a fingertip.

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