Brian Ulrich: Copia—Retail, Thrift and Dark Stores, 2001-11

Photographer’s exploration of consumer culture opens January 18

RICHMOND – From January 18 to March 10, 2013, the Anderson Gallery of the VCU School of the Arts will present Copia—Retail,Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001-11, the first major museum exhibition of photographer Brian Ulrich’s decade-long examination of the American consumer psyche. From the Latin word for “plenty,” the artist’s Copia series includes nearly 60 photographs that explore the economic, cultural, and political implications of commercialism and American consumer culture.“We are so pleased to feature this powerful body of work by Brian,who joined theVCUarts faculty last year and is quickly building an impressive international reputation,” says Gallery Director Ashley Kistler.

The exhibition was organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and made possible by the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation. It will also travel to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh (September 29, 2013–January 5, 2014) and to Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art in Milwaukee next spring.

Works in the exhibition, curated by Tom Hinson, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s curator emeritus, are divided into three parts: Retail,Thrift, and Dark Stores. For the images included in the Retail phase (2001-06), Ulrich traveled extensively throughout the United States. He initially used a hand-held camera with the viewfinder at waist level, which allowed him to remain anonymous while docu- menting shoppers engrossed in navigating the abundance of goods found in vast enclosed malls and big-box stores. The second phase, Thrift (2005-08), focuses on thrift stores, the collecting places for discarded and unwanted consumer products, and its workers, as they attempt to bring order to the enormous amounts of donated, discarded, and unwanted consumer products.The concluding group, Dark Stores (2008-11), features images in which Ulrich explores the impact of the 2008 financial crisis with haunting architectural landscapes of abandoned buildings and empty parking lots that have become commonplace in towns across America.

“I had to see if people were indeed patriotic shopping in response to the events on September 11,” says Ulrich, referring to the beginning of his decade-long investigation. “Not only was it clear that this was the case, but standing in a big-box store or shopping mall, I could see the entire trajectory of the 20th-century economy and ideology playing out in the excess of goods and overwhelmed stares of the shoppers.Ten years later, I hope that these photographs serve as a marker with which we can learn about our behaviors, habits, comforts, and purpose.” [continued]

The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Is This Place Great or What, which includes the entire Copia series, as well as a statement from Ulrich and an essay by Juliet B. Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, entitled Shopapalooza:The Boom and Bust of the Retail Economy. Co-published by the Aperture Foundation, the book is available from the Anderson Gallery for $40.00.

In conjunction with Copia, the Anderson Gallery has organized Close Out: Retail Relics and Ephemera, the first exhibition to present objects and images from Ulrich’s vast personal archive of retail artifacts. This presentation provides a wider historical context for the artist’s own photographs and is accompanied by a limited-edition artist book. Both exhibitions will open with a public reception on Friday evening, January 18, from 5 to 7 pm.

About the Artist

Born in 1971 in Northport, New York, Brian Ulrich received his BFA in photography from the University of Akron and his MFA in photography from Columbia College, Chicago. Since finishing his graduate studies in 2004, he has had solo exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Julie Saul Gallery, New York; and Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco. His work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Galerie f5.6, Munich; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois;Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, among many other venues.

Ulrich’s photographs portraying contemporary consumer culture reside in such major museum collections as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. In 2007, he was named one of the year’s 30 Emerging Photographers by Photo District News and a critic’s pick by Richard Woodward in ARTnews. In 2009, he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. His work has been recently featured in the New York Times Magazine; Orion Magazine; Vice Magazine; Mother Jones; Chicago Tribune; Artforum; Harper’s Magazine; Leica World; Yvi Magazine, and as a frequent contributor to the magazine Adbusters. Ulrich currently lives in Richmond, where he is Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography and Film at the VCU School of the Arts.

Image Caption:

Brian Ulrich, Pep Boys 3, 2009; ultrachrome inkjet print, 20 x 24 inches. Collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell. Photograph courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.


Happenings this Friday at the AG

Portrait as Community 
Anderson Gallery | 907 1/2 West Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23284
On view Nov 30-Dec 9
Opening Friday Nov 30, 5-8 pm
Gallery Hours: Tues-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat-Sun 12-5 pm, closed Mon |


Portrait as Community is a student exhibition of multimedia projects documenting communities in and around Richmond. It is also the culmination of a special course inspired by Growing Up in Civil Rights Richmond: A Community Remembers, a project organized by the Anderson Gallery with South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa and American Studies scholar Laura Browder. Students from the VCU Departments of Photography & Film and Art Education examined historical examples, research methodologies, ethical concerns, and artistic strategies related to the representation of communities, selecting and working with specific Richmond communities over the semester to create their projects.


Projects by: Jaclyn Brown, Casey Collier, Kate Fowler, Beth Harris, Lauren Lyon, Jessica Overcash, Mark Strandquist, Breonca Trofort, and Michael Weinheimer.

Portrait as Community was a collaborative course offered by the Department of Photography and Film, VCU Libraries and the Anderson Gallery. Yuki Hibben, Assistant Head of Special Collections, James Branch Cabell Library, and Michael Lease, Head of Exhibitions and Design, Anderson Gallery, professors.

Image credit: Jaclyn Brown, Delores, 2012. Digital C-print, 16 x 24 inches. 


Open Late
Sponge HQ
Anderson Gallery
One night only
Friday, Nov 30, 5-8pm


Open Late 11.30.12 – Relics and tales from Prototype for Preserving the Phylum Porifera are on offer in the Sponge HQ alongside a potluck organized by the artists of Portrait as Community, which opens concurrently in the gallery next door.


Prototype for Preserving the Phylum Porifera, a hands-on project in honor of the sea-sponge, was a Swarming for Mildred’s Lane and the Mildred Complex(ity) at the MoMA Studio: Common Senses exhibition. Now we’re bringing it all back home.

On view is a video specially produced for t

he project in New York, sea-sponges: felted and cast in beeswax and bronze, and a portfolio of archival material. The evening plays out amid hand-felted bee-box seats with honey to taste from the HQ hive.

With Colleen Billing, Colleen Brennan, Patrick Carter, Lindsay Clements, Riley Duncan, Gavin Foster, Hope Ginsburg, JoJo Houff, Julie Hundley, Joshua Quarles and Clare van Loenan.

Happy Hour at the Anderson Gallery

Free programs + a cash bar

Wednesdays in June and July, 5-7 pm

We had so much fun last year, that we’re bringing it back. Join us in the Cool Spot Lounge!

6/6      Sounds Sweet: WRIR Ice Cream Social

WRIR kicks off the return of Happy Hour with Old Time music performed by the River City Band and Sweet Fern in the Gallery’s Cool Spot Lounge. Top off the evening with a scoop or two of Richmond’s favorite summertime treat, Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream.

6/13    Belle Voix: The Bird & Her Consort

A highlight of last year’s lineup, musicians Antonia and Jonathan Vassar return to perform another seductive mix of art songs, parlor music, and folk ballads. Incorporating accordion, guitar, and classical voice, their unique musical arrangements offer a cool and refreshing respite from the summer heat.

6/20    Bali Bound: Gamelan Raga Kusuma + WRIR DJ Graybeard

This Richmond ensemble, joined by dancers from the Indonesian Embassy, will expand your musical horizons with its performance of traditional and contemporary Balinese orchestral music. DJ Graybeard, aka Charles Williams, WRIR host of The Other Black Music and The Motherland Influence (with David Noyes), continues the evening’s journey with his fantastic blend of international sounds.

6/27    Freshen Up: A Taste of Summer with Slow Food RVA & Gourmand John Haddad

Celebrate the season, connect with area growers, and learn about Richmond’s diverse food community—all while sampling local produce and cheeses and enjoying the sounds of Richmond’s Indigenous Gourd Orchestra.

7/11    Family Fun: Tours & ‘Toons

Bring along the kids and join artist-educator Tara Strickstein for a guided tour and scavenger hunt exploring the gallery’s summer exhibitions. More fun can be found in the lounge, where screenings of vintage cartoons will delight viewers of all ages.

Tours begin at 5:30 and 6 pm.


7/18    Foot Work: A Collective Rug-Making Project with Artist Hope Ginsburg

Slip and slide over a room-sized batt of wool, and watch a felt rug form beneath your feet. Learn the basics of wool felt-making with Hope Ginsburg, whose project Sponge is headquartered at the Gallery, and leave ready to make your own rug, curtains, and a felt house to put them in.

7/25    Last Call: Jonathan Vassar & The Speckled Bird with Artist Matt Flowers

Musical innovator Jonathan Vassar leads his ensemble in another experimental performance interweaving music and image. For this Happy Hour finale, the sublime acoustic sounds of The Speckled Bird complement the immersive landscape imagery of Matt Flowers’s videos.

Sculptors Provocatively Transform Materials and Objects in New Anderson Gallery Show

RICHMOND, VA- Works by ten sculptors—both veterans and relative newcomers to the international art scene—will be featured in the Anderson Gallery’s winter exhibition, you, your sun and shadow. The exhibition is curated by Michael Jones McKean, a professor in the Department of Sculpture + Extended Media, and organized by the Anderson Gallery at the VCU School of the Arts. “This project offers a singular opportunity to explore a significant aspect of contemporary sculpture from the personal perspective of an artist who is himself highly regarded as an innovator in the field,” says Director Ashley Kistler. The public is invited to attend an opening reception on Friday, January 20, from 6 until 8 p.m. Also free and open to the public, McKean will give a gallery talk on Wednesday, January 25, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Participating artists include Hany Armanious (Sydney, Australia), Rashid Johnson (New York, NY), Pam Lins (Brooklyn, NY), Tony Matelli (New York, NY), Ian Pedigo (New York, NY), Dario Robleto (San Antonio, TX), Haim Steinbach (Brooklyn, NY and San Diego, CA), Sarah Sze (New York, NY), Tatiana Trouvé (Paris, France), and Daniel Turner (New York, NY). Their sculptures and installations underscore the poetic potential of objects, materials, and modes of arrangement, while conjuring the possibility of larger narrative and metaphorical structures. As McKean conceived it, “The exhibition is a sustained attempt to create a space where straightforward logic doesn’t always win, where simple moments can seem pronounced and exquisite, and where the discovery of meaning depends upon our speculative engagement.”

The investigation of materiality—often paired with a hypersensitive regard for everyday objects—is a central concern of each artist in the show, which includes highly technical approaches as well as the most basic means of delineating space and making marks. In the latter camp, Ian Pedigo handles discarded materials with a directness that preserves their humble character, while coaxing from them visual subtleties that map space in simple but evocative ways. Using steel wool as a painterly tool, Daniel Turner works on site to make wall rubbings whose discreet, seemingly accidental presence belies their intentionality.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, the alchemical transformation of materials again reminds us that appearances can be deceiving. The rarefied ingredients that Dario Robleto assembles to create his work are as important as the final outcome. Often resembling castoff objects, artifacts, or keepsakes, his painstakingly crafted sculptures are symbolically loaded by virtue of their material composition. Through the millennia-old technique of casting, Hany Armanious mines the arcane power, formal possibilities, and conceptual implications of meticulously reproducing everyday objects, elevating both their status in the world and their presence in our minds. Similarly, two works by Tony Matelli, characterized by random marks, grimy smudges, and dusty surfaces, appear to be nothing more than neglected mirrors, while his life-sized figure, floating just inches above the floor in a fugue-like state, offers a hyper-real encounter that reaffirms the sculptor’s sleight of hand.
Other artists address materiality in terms of their selection, arrangement, and display of preexisting objects. Haim Steinbach, an early and especially influential proponent of this approach, is represented by two of his shelf works. In his alter-like assemblages, Rashid Johnson arranges culturally resonant objects to create a personal vocabulary of symbols and references. Sarah Sze, well known for expansive installations engineered with the most quotidian items, goes one step further, casting in plaster all the recyclable containers from a month of lunches and snacks. These nearly 400 simple white forms infiltrate the Anderson Gallery’s work space, their ghostly presence blurring the edge between art and life.

Tatiana Trouvé’s precisely scaled architectural installation reinforces the quiet, sometimes pensive tone that runs through much of the exhibition, as well as the importance of the viewer’s participation in deciphering a narrative. Viewed from opposing sides through large panes of greenish glass, an otherwise inaccessible room contains a mysterious assortment of found and made objects, gestural marks, small doors, and private spaces. Pam Lins also plays with perspective and shifting points of view in her endlessly inventive iterations of the plywood pedestal, each of which changes in appearance, revealing paradoxical characteristics, as the viewer moves around the sculpture.

The exhibition will continue through Sunday, March 11. The Anderson Gallery is located at 907½ West Franklin Street, on VCU’s Monroe Park campus. It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 10 am-5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday noon-5 pm, and closed on Sunday.

Coming up…Contemporary African Art

We are in the midst of installation time over here at the Anderson Gallery. Getting ready for our fall exhibition– Environment and Object, Recent African Art. Organized by the Tang Museum at Skidmore College, the exhibition features work by sixteen contemporary African artists. Currently, we’re in the process of installing three dazzling wall hangings by internationally celebrated artist El Anatsui. He’ll be at VCU giving the 2011 Windmueller lecture on Monday, September 19 at the Grace Street Theatre. The lecture’s format will be a conversation between Anatsui and Babatunde Lawal, professor of Art History at VCU (and one of the nicest and most intelligent men you’ll ever meet).

The show will tackle some tough issues– like the impact of urbanization and ecological devastation– and the work on view is absolutely stunning. There are great teaser images on our website:

Stop by the opening reception; it’ll be here at the Gallery on Friday, September 9 from 5-8 pm.

And, don’t miss the panel discussion on September 8 at the Grace Street Theater, 934 W Grace. Two featured artists, Viye Diba from Senegal and Bright Ugochukwu Eke, as well as the exhibition co-curators and Dr. Lawal will all be offering up their thoughts and insights into the show and the themes that it addresses. See you there!!


Anderson Gallery ♥s WRIR

Last night, audio met visual at the Anderson Gallery. As part of our summer Happy Hour series, we hosted a WRIR Social. Michael Miracle, from The Lotus Land Show on WRIR, curated a two-hour audio tour inspired by the works in our summer exhibition Knock, Knock! Visitors had the chance to play the Audio + Visual scavenger hunt. Too much fun.

If you missed it, not to worry. You can find the podcast here.